Archives For Leadership

What happens when you combine trust, faith, and hope? They produce grit.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.”

In light of the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, I decided to tweak this definition to be the ability to keep going despite setbacks, even when your efforts are not rewarded.  Grit is what you need when facing dark days and sleepless nights.

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Dark Days and Sleepless Nights

We live in troubling times. Prices are rising while incomes are falling. We’re hearing endless reports of senseless violence, natural catastrophes, and uncertainty in what the future holds.  It doesn’t matter which news feed you prefer, there is little to hope for the future.

Be encouraged because God is never caught off guard or by surprise.  He knows the future.  You are not the only one that…

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Healthy, growing churches are outwardly-focused, always thinking about how to communicate the gospel to a lost culture and bring the next unchurched person into a thriving relationship with God. In the same way, a healthy church staff thinks about more than just how to accomplish the next team project. Great church leaders are kingdom-thinkers with a global vision for God’s glory.

Since the earliest days of Saddleback Church, I’ve challenged every staff member to think about their role in at least 3 realms.

First, you have a ministry to the unchurched.

You may have a role in church leadership related to kids ministry volunteers, creating graphics and videos, or expanding the church’s small groups ministry, but your first ministry is always to those who are lost and far from God. Every church leader needs to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5) and share the Good News about Jesus with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.

As a matter of fact, the reason why we strive to balance the five purposes and make more disciples is ultimately so that more disciples can be made. Every facet of church ministry fits together to create a healthy body that…

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There’s lots of media talk about the British government being in “chaos” as a result of the “Brexit” vote. There’s a lot of exaggeration there – after all, the media is about sensationalism, since that’s what sells newspapers and media advertising. But there’s no question that many companies, churches, and nonprofit organizations experience times of chaos, and many times over the years, I’ve been asked to consult during these catastrophes.

During those times, I’ve helped them navigate through the storm. So the question becomes, how should leaders react when things fall apart? When everything breaks loose, what’s the best approach for righting the ship and getting the organization moving forward again? While each story involves complexity and time, here’s my suggestions from the start (and feel free to pass this along to our British friends):

1) The best leaders understand the business.  During times of crisis, everyone will step up with “advice,” and many of those ideas will be crazy. The best way to navigate the overwhelming tide of outside opinions and ideas is to know the business well. Know your team, and…

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The work of ministry is never done. There is always more you could do. More people you could meet with. More sermons to write. More emails to answer. More outreach opportunities.

More. More. More.

Productivity matters for pastors. You will never be able to do everything, but the Bible encourages us to be wise and make the most of our time.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV).

Pastors and others who work in ministry will be held accountable for how well we steward the time God has given us.

How are you doing with that?

I have not always been the most productive person. However, in my years of ministry, I have learned a few things along the way that have benefited me.

I wish I had known and practiced these productivity tips earlier. I hope they will help you as well.

1. Practice Spiritual Discipline

Without exception, begin your day with time in God’s Word and prayer. Disciples are disciplined. You cannot lead your people spiritually if you are spiritually empty.

Prayer and time in the Word is…

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Recently, my incredible wife turned sixty. She’s a year older than I am (I think that makes her a cougar!), and even more beautiful to me than the day I first met her in Ms. Nute’s high school choir class in 1973. We’ve been a couple for over forty-two years and celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary in just a few weeks.

If you’re young, like under thirty, you think sixty years of life and forty-plus years of marriage is a looooong time. In reality, it’s just a grain of sand on the beach of eternity.

If you’re old(er), like over fifty, you know how weird it is to look at the face in the mirror and wonder, when did I become a senior citizen?

Let me make some observations about age for both the young and the not-so-young.

If you’re young . . . 

  • Live in the present. Months turn into decades before you know it, so savor the moments you have right now. Don’t waste the great gift of time. In fact, don’t wait until you’re old to live on purpose. “Bucket lists” are common among the elderly primarily because they’ve waited too long to take risks and…

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Burnout

The first step in growing your church while preventing burnout is conducting a heart check. Not your physical heart, although if you’re really burned out that may not be a bad idea. I’m talking about your emotional, spiritual heart.

What’s motivating you?

What’s motivating within the context of church can get complicated.

We’re working to serve God and people.

You’re preparing a sermon, leading a small group, running the lights and sound, or other tasks that contribute to telling people about Christ. Sometimes we can get so blinded by doing work for God that we neglect our relationship with God. That’s dangerous and can lead to the moral failures we’ve seen in the church lately or pastors/church staff burning out and leaving.

How do you conduct a heart check? Here are several areas to consider:

#1 – When did you last spend time in prayer and reading the Word that wasn’t for preparation of a sermon or other work-related activity?

We all need time with God that’s simply for the purpose of listening, learning, and enjoying his presence. It’s easy to try and justify not having personal time with God if you’ve already spent several…

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I’ve been involved in a great many organizations transitioning to next generation leadership, and the issue of “legacy” always comes up. How should the founder be remembered? When should the founder let go? The Billy Graham organization asked some of those questions when they designed their library and museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Many nonprofit and ministry organizations are making that transition right now, and when it comes to the hand-off, here are some thoughts:

1) It’s never too early to start. If the founder has reached his or her late fifties or sixties, it’s time to start thinking about legacy. At that age, the slightest health problem could derail their work, so we need a backup plan. Especially if you’ve built a major church, ministry, or non-profit, we need to start thinking about a successor. The succession doesn’t need to happen right away, but you need a solid plan. I know major ministry leaders who died unexpectedly, which made for some serious scrambling by their organizations.  So don’t be caught off guard.

2) The line, “Success without a successor is failure” is a myth. The fact is, not every organization is meant to extend to…

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I fail in life far more often than I care to admit. Maybe it’s my perfectionist tendencies or just the high bar that I set for myself. Regardless, failure has been and continues to be a regular part of my life. I miss deadlines. I disappoint people. I forget important things. I spell words wrong when I’m typing.

I would imagine that you’ve experience failure at least once before. Right? Please make me feel somewhat normal here…

Over the years, I’ve been around others as they’ve failed. And some do it well…and some not so well. Let me be honest – sometimes I do it well and sometimes I don’t. But, I believe there’s a five step process to go through in order to fail “well.” Here are the five steps:

Step one – Have the right attitude about it.

When you fail, don’t overreact. Don’t treat your failure like it’s the end of the world…or even the end of anything. Often mistakes and failures are built up in our minds to be larger than they really are. When we fail, it’s a great time to choose the right attitude. Understanding, before the…

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We’re all living and working in an increasingly fast-paced and ever-changing world.

Succeeding and excelling in today’s world require you to consider certain traits to be effective. In order to thrive in a fast-changing world, effective leaders make and implement decisions, possess agility, and include others in decision-making. Regardless of their respective industry, effective leaders make decisions and implement strategies to carry out their decision.

Making and Implementing Decisions

The critical task of leadership is making decisions. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know the outcome of the decisions we make. Effective leaders must decide where they’re going and how to get there.

Deciding where to go could be considered the vision. Having the plan to get there is the strategy. Once a leader decides where they’re going and how to get there the next critical task of leadership is implementation.

Ask yourself: What decision am I making and what’s my strategy to implement it?

Agility

The challenge of leadership is that we live in a “fast” and ever changing world. That means things happen quickly and to survive, leaders have to get their organizations to react equally quickly – and effectively – when those things happen. The…

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Delegation and empowerment are easier to write about than they are to actually implement. For anyone who has ever tried it, you have also learned that there need to be a few rules to help guide the person who’s been empowered. It’s not uncommon for the new leader to quickly use their new power to set off in unintended directions.

We need to not only give them power, but also some guiding principles.

May I suggest the following ABCs of empowerment?

1. Alignment

The greatest example of empowerment in the Bible is found in Matthew 28:16-20.  We commonly refer to this passage as the Great Commission.  In this passage Jesus empowers the leaders he has trained for the previous three years to fulfill his ongoing mission.  He tells them, “Guys, I’m outta here. I’m handing the baton to you now. Complete the work I started by making new disciples everywhere.” (Mossolonian Loose Translation)

Jesus is clear on the mission, vision, and values.  He is conspicuously vague on the methods. Of course, this is on purpose. Jesus wants his followers to focus on the eternal purposes of the church, not the cultural practices of a particular context.  This allows…

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Creativity matters in ministry. It matters because God is creative. He’s the most creative being in the entire universe. It only makes sense that we serve God with our creatively.

How do you develop a culture of innovation in your church?

You need a theology of innovation. We are most like our creator when we’re creative. God wired us to be creative. Children are very creative. They are born creative. It’s normal. We get the creativity kicked out of us as time goes by. We learn to be afraid. But a theology of innovation always reminds us that God intends us to be creative.

You need a creative atmosphere. There are certain environments I can be very creative in, and certain environments where I can’t. At Saddleback, we’ve never had a boardroom or the big boardroom-style table that comes with that. We have recliners. Meetings don’t start at Saddleback until we kick our feet up. It’s when I get in a totally prone position that I can be the most creative and can discover what God would have us do.

You need to stay playful. Playfulness stimulates creativity. When you get people laughing, you get the endorphins…

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Starting something new is much easier than transitioning something established.

Currently, I serve as lead pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago. I succeeded my father, the late Rev. Dr. Clarence E. Stowers, Sr. who served for thirty-six years. The church I inherited was a traditional African American Baptist Church rich with tradition.

After five years of praying, meeting, teaching, leading, and building supportive teams, we transitioned to a contemporary church. During the process, I almost quit, but decided to pivot and stick it out. It was the best decision of my life. In life, you’ll eventually come to a crossroad. When it happens, you must decide if you’ll stick with it, quit, or pivot. How do you know which choice is best? I chose to pivot.

So, What Does it Mean to Pivot?

I love sports, and when I hear the word pivot, immediately basketball comes to mind. When basketball players stop dribbling the ball, they must decide which foot is their pivot foot. Upon deciding, they can’t switch feet. Pivoting is the term used to define both the act of keeping one foot in place while…

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