Archives For Leadership

One of my fondest memories of growing up is my father’s garden. It seemed my dad grew everything in his garden. In fact, he always grew enough to feed the entire neighborhood. Whenever people would stop by our home for a visit, they’d usually leave with a sack full of fresh vegetables and fruit.

The kind of fruit my father grew is just one kind of fruit—natural fruit. There is also biological fruit, the offspring of animals and the children of people. Then there is spiritual fruit, and that’s what God is talking about in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV).

These nine qualities describe the character of a fruitful, productive Christian—the kind of Christian all of us in ministry want to become and help others become in the process.

The question is: How do we get these character qualities? Obviously, God doesn’t just zap me one day and all of a sudden these qualities materialize in my life. He uses a process.

Here are two important facts you need to know about developing spiritual fruit:

It’s a partnership

The apostle Paul describes the…

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Plateau

I hear it frequently: “My church has hit a plateau. What can I do to get it moving again?”

While this can be a common crisis, it’s not unfixable. There are several things you can do to help your church move beyond its growth block.

First, though, it’s important to understand that the longer your church has been plateaued, the longer it’s going to take to get it going again. There is tremendous power in momentum.

At NASA, most of the energy – the jet fuel – in a rocket engine is used up in the first several hundred yards. It takes all that fuel just to get the thing off the launch pad. Once it’s in orbit, it takes very little power to keep a rocket going. But you still have to get the thing going, and that initial push takes a lot of time and energy up front.

If your church has been plateaued for six months, it might take six months to get it going again. If it’s been plateaued a year, it might take a year. If it’s been plateaued for twenty years, you’ve got to set in for the duration!

For…

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Believe

The real foundation of great leadership is character, not charisma. And one aspect of a leader’s character is the convictions to which he is deeply committed. Great leaders have strongly held beliefs. An opinion is something you’d argue about; a conviction is something you’d die for. Pastors, especially, must define the convictions for which they will endure every kind of hardship, and the only way to stand for those kinds of convictions is to live from a deep sense of God’s calling.

If God has called you to the task of leadership, nothing can stop you. Your identity rests in your relationship with him, not the approval of the people you are leading or the watching world around you. Instead of living in the comparison trap or the fear of what people will think, you must develop your convictions – theological, ethical, and practical – and stand by them.

Believe in advance that your convictions will be tested from at least eight angles:

1. Derision. When you’re in leadership, one of the first ways people will try to get you to deny your conviction is to make fun of you. Your convictions may very well…

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Gears

Every pastor who wants fully engaged board members, staff and church members needs to ask three probing questions.

  1. Do I understand the Greatest Commandment and take it seriously?
  2. Do I understand that I can love God wholeheartedly only if I have received, embraced, and cherished His deep love for me?
  3. Do I understand that I can love my neighbors as myself only if I love myself?

If you’re missing that last understanding—if it isn’t true of your board members, staff and church members—then the Greatest Commandment is mere theory. And, we’re definitely not alive at a heart level. Granted, we may be working hard. We may be doing our level best. Then again, let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not fully engaged.

To become more fully engaged, I highly recommend reading (or listening to) Jerry and Denise Basel’s landmark book, The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.

Earlier this summer I spent three days with Jerry and Denise at their beautiful home north of Atlanta. They’re the real deal with a powerful message. Together, Jerry and Denise resolved a deep three-year nagging question/concern in my own life: What does it mean for me to obey Jesus and love…

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Surviving and Thriving in SeminaryThe thought that kept recurring as I read Surviving and Thriving in Seminary was this: I wish I had read this book – or one like it – as I prepared to head off to seminary. The practical insights found here might have saved me much frustration and countless mistakes. Perhaps even more importantly, they would have helped me gain more value from my seminary experience.

The authors, Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin Forrest, of this brief book – most readers will finish it in a couple of settings — are both seminary professors and seminary graduates, and the work reflects their experiences as both students and as teachers of students. They understand the great value of seminary for preparing people for ministry, but they also understand that seminary is a three-year (or more) grind that can leave those that run the gauntlet exhausted and embittered. A fair number drop out. This work is designed to address seminary’s challenges, and the book is ideal for those either on the verge of enrolling or for those who are in their first year.

The work is…

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I completely agree with Ken Blanchard, author of Lead Like Jesus, that the greatest leader in all of history is Jesus. My faith convictions about him being the Son of God and Savior of the world aside, his organization should have died long ago if judged only in business terms and yet, it’s thriving two thousand years after several major world empires have fallen.

I also believe some people echo Jesus’ leadership style without even realizing it. Any talk of servant leadership certainly traces back to the influence of Jesus on our modern era.

One of the facets of Jesus’ leadership that sets him in his own class is his absolute purity of motives for leading. While some leaders become quite wealthy leading (and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that), Jesus seemed to have no care whatsoever for acquiring personal possessions. I do believe he wanted some things, but his wants were different from the desires of many other leaders.

Let me offer desires that good leaders seem to have:

1. Good leaders want to change the world for good.

It isn’t that good leaders only lead and manage organizations with good causes, it’s that good leaders see their leadership as significantly affecting the world around them…

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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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