Archives For Leadership

Ministry Leadership Action

Procrastination has a high cost. When we cram for tests, we get lower grades. When we wait until the deadline to file taxes, we miss things and make costly mistakes. When we put off difficult conversations, we hurt people and relationships.

And the cost of procrastination in ministry can be significantly higher. For us, procrastination isn’t measured in dollars; it is measured in ministries never started, people with needs going unmet, and those who are spiritually lost never hearing the Gospel.

The Bible says in James 4:17, “Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not to do it” (NLT). When God calls you to do something, but you don’t do it, it’s not just a bad strategy or a missed blessing. It is sin.

If God has called you to do something in your ministry and you are not doing it, do it now! Not next month, next week, or even tomorrow—do it right now.

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring” (NLT). None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. You may not have the opportunity tomorrow to do what…

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Walk Happy

Being a pastor isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It’s emotionally taxing. We’re just as subject to the pressure to hustle and grind as anyone in a professional role, and sometimes, the grind gets to us. You can only hustle so long until you’re out of energy.

I’ve found that when discouragement attacks, it usually attacks on Mondays, even after a great weekend of worship services and seeing lives changed.

James Draper once described the Southern Baptist Convention as “a denomination of discouraged leaders.” I think that’s true of most denominations and churches. I’ve heard from tens of thousands of leaders who have attended our Purpose Driven conferences and training events, and I’ve concluded that a majority of pastors struggle with chronic discouragement.

Thankfully, there is an antidote. The fourth chapter of Nehemiah gives us a four-point plan for bouncing back when we’re feeling down.

1. Rest Your Body

Nehemiah rested. The psalmist wrote about rest in Psalm 127:2, “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?” (The Message).

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in a…

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Project

As a pastor, you need to be able to put together projects efficiently and effectively. Whether you are starting a new church, planning a new ministry, opening a new building, or just preparing for next weekend’s services, you need to mobilize people around a common task. That’s leadership in a nutshell.

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city’s wall, he had a monster project on his hands. How he tackled that project provides us with seven key principles for getting things done.

1. The Principle of Simplification

Nehemiah kept his plan simple. He didn’t randomly assign jobs, he didn’t create a whole new organization, and he didn’t force any complex charts.

He organized around groups already associating together, such as the priests, the men of Jericho, and the sons of Hassenaah. The point is: Don’t create an organization if you don’t need it. If an organization already naturally exists, try to work through it and with it.

Sometimes a new leader comes into a situation, and the first thing he does is start changing the whole organization. Think: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Strong organizations are often the simplest ones.

2. The Principle of…

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Joyful Ministry

As Saddleback Church continues in our 40 Days of Prayer campaign, I’m mindful of the fact that a lot of leaders around the world might not be in the best place, spiritually, to lead a church in such an intense prayer effort. If you want to lead your church effectively through a campaign, you need to be keeping your own relationship with God fresh.

It’s way too easy to just go through the motions instead of basing your ministry on a growing relationship with Christ. In fact, your ministry will have no impact if you’re not developing a more intimate relationship with Christ.

Philippians 3:10 says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (NIV). The word “know” in this verse speaks of a deeply intimate relationship, like the relationship a husband and wife have with each another. Part of what kept Paul joyful in spite of being imprisoned as he wrote the book of Philippians was his intimate relationship with Christ.

Here are three big ways you can do the same …

1. Spend Time…

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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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