Archives For Leadership

Dear Pastors,

I am one of you. For 39 years I have served as a pastor of a local church. The last 29 of these years I have served the same church. Even though I began when I was very young, God was and has been faithful to protect me all the way.

In the past few weeks, I have felt compelled to write you this letter. These are words that any local church pastor can identify with in life and ministry. Please consider these words, place them before the Lord, and then apply as needed or as He desires.

First, put Jesus first in your day. Start your day early with God and if early is not your deal, at least start your day with God first. Yes, first things first. If we do not begin our day with Jesus, then we forfeit the privilege to lead His people. Please begin your day with God; otherwise, defeat in life and ministry will become normal for you.

Second, renew your belief in the power of God. He can do anything, anytime, anywhere with anyone. He can do this with you and through your church. Refuse…

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Editor’s Note: This is the second part of an interview originally published in 2002. Click here to read part 1


81IKhq3H3xL._SL1500_Walker: It took you a long time to get a building erected at Saddleback and it’s an unusual one at that. Tell us about your building philosophy.

Warren: First, buildings are to be instruments, not monuments. We would never build a building we couldn’t tear down – if we needed to in order to reach more people – because people are the priority not buildings.

Winston Churchhill once said, “We shape our buildings and then they shape us.” Most churches build too soon and too small. Then a permanently small building shapes a permanently small future. That’s why we postponed our building as long as we could. That meant, in order to keep growing, we used 79 different buildings in 13 years. We often joked, “We’re the church that, if you can figure out where we are this week, you get to come.”

Walker: You also have a strong opinion that churches should not try to mix traditional with contemporary worship styles.

Warren: Absolutely. If you try to please everybody you will end up…

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It was the late 1980s. Our church was buzzing and growing. God was moving powerfully. We had just moved into a new Worship Center and all of a sudden, transition was inevitable. While our numbers gained greatly, we also saw a few individuals and families depart. As any pastor would be, I was troubled.

This Was an Important Moment for Me

God had raised up a man to walk with me through those days of transition. His name was Ron Lewis. He joined me on the journey to help the church as we advanced toward reaching our region with the Gospel, and he listened to me share about a few individuals and families who had departed our church. As a pastor, you know what it is like: we do not want to lose anyone and while God is bestowing our church with countless blessings, Satan sidetracks us with one little issue.

I will never forget what Ron Lewis told me that day.

Ronnie, Never Let Anyone Outside of Your Circle of Love

Sitting in a Bonanza restaurant, we were working through how we could sustain momentum in our church. Ron looked at me and said, “Ronnie, never…

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In Mark 9:14-29, Christ’s disciples encounter a boy who has been plagued with demons. As a result, the boy was blind and mute. He frequently was thrown to the ground in violent fits. He would foam and the mouth and grind his teeth down. The demons would even cause him to fall into water and fire in an attempt to kill him.

The boy’s father brought him to the disciples for healing. Yet, the disciples could not help. The demons remained and the boy’s afflictions continued.

Jesus heard the commotion and asked what was happening. The boy’s father explained the situation to Jesus. After a short conversation, Christ healed the boy and removed the evil spirits.

Later, when they were alone, the disciples asked Jesus why they were not able to heal the boy. I imagine, as pastors, we can relate to the disciples’ question.

We all have evil within our churches. Believers continue to deal with the effects of indwelling sin and the desires of the flesh. Meanwhile, Satan’s rule over the present world works to woo believers into temptation.

Although every pastor experiences some “ministerial victories” from time to time, it is disconcerting to…

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Editor’s Note: The following is a re-published version of an inspiring interview with Pastor Rick Warren from 2002, and the principles are still extremely relevant to where the church is today. Pass this one along…


Jon Walker: You’re known for saying that pastors need to be more “lost” centered, that is, looking at their church from the perspective of someone who doesn’t go to church. Could you elaborate on that?

Rick Warren: The most overlooked principle for church growth is we have to love people the way Jesus did. That’s it! The motive behind everything we’ve done at Saddleback is that we love and care about lost people. The reason Jesus attracted such large crowds is because He loved people. On the other hand, I’ve heard churches justify their lack of growth by saying, “We’re small because we haven’t watered down the gospel.” But maybe the real reason they don’t have a crowd is because they don’t want a crowd! They love their own comfort more than they love lost people.

To reach unbelievers you have to move outside your own comfort zone and do things that often feel awkward and uncomfortable to you. It…

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Regardless of what anyone says, no one likes change but a baby.  But successful leaders know change is not only a constant reality, it is necessary for continued success.

Change is a true constant to be leveraged.  Not a temporary burden to avoid.

I love the Bible.  It is simply the greatest leadership book ever written.  In Genesis 32:22-32, we read the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  During this struggle, God changed Jacob and an entire nation for the rest of human history.  And God wants to change us as well.

As I read the text, I gleaned the following 10 Things Pastors And Church Leaders Should Know About Handling Change:

  1. Change Affects Those You Love – v. 22 – “And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.”  Leading change is not popular.  People do not want to change, especially their music or worship service.  Therefore, the effects of change on a leader’s life are often experienced by their family as well.
  2. Change Costs You Some Change – v. 23 – “He took them, sent them over the brook,…

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Have you ever felt tired or rundown? Like you are simply running from one thing to the next with no end in sight? That you and your family always seem to be involved in a thousand things and you roll into bed each night completely exhausted? You wonder if you are the only one. You don’t think you are, but as you think about other families and the people you work with, you wonder how tired they are. You wonder if they watch their kids growing up and feel like they are missing out on their lives. You wonder if they look at their spouse and remember slower, simpler times when it was easier to connect.

The reality is, though no one will talk about it, you aren’t the only one.

The problem for most Americans and families is that we don’t know how to stop the cycle of craziness that defines so much of our schedules and lives.

We think before signing up our kids for music lessons or a sport, “Should we do this? Can we afford this? Do I have the time to do this?” We wonder these same things as…

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We like change that directly benefits us – a job promotion, a new home, marrying our dream mate, etc. But we’re terrified of change that threatens our sense of stability, security, or significance. Having been a Pastor for eighteen years now, I’ve seen my share of missed opportunities for new, fresh growth resulting from the fear of taking risks that might cost our comfort.

God is living, active, and dynamic. Furthermore, he is sovereign. We like to treat God as a product – apply, rinse, and repeat – who will give us the same results forever as long as we never change the way we use him. But God has a tendency to be elusive, calling us out of our comfort zones and drawing us into the sometimes crazy adventure of following him on his terms, not ours.

Growth and forward momentum are created by significant catalytic changes.

We’ve watched this already in the short life of Grace Hills Church. We started meeting in an office building with about 30 people. When we moved to a local hotel, we grew to 70. When we launched in our first movie theater location, 174 showed up and we averaged…

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Recently a Senior Pastor friend of mine attempting to lead his church of 180 in growth asked if I had any thoughts I could share with his governing board about crafting an effective budget for their church.

Since I know this is something many of you are thinking about right now, I thought you might appreciate listening in on the conversation.

Here goes…

Dear Governing Board,

I appreciate you asking my advice.

Here are eight things to keep in mind when budgeting for the growth of your church:

1. Growing churches always budget to last year’s income.
That means if you took in $168,000 last year, then that’s the total amount you budget for the following year. Increases in giving are placed in reserves.

2. Growing churches under 400 always hire part-time worship and part-time children’s staff before they hire a secretary.
We were 320 as a church before we had our first paid part-time secretary. I’d suggest splitting your $9000 a year salary for your secretary and hiring a very part-time worship minister for $4500 a year and a very part-time children’s staff member for the same. Both will fuel growth. As I say to guys I coach,…

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You can learn a lot about a person by the kind of prayer he prays. For instance, a selfish prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Have you ever heard a prayer that sounds like a Christmas list — I want this, and I want that. Some people try to impress you with their prayers, yet they come off as arrogant and prideful.

For leaders, there’s a model prayer in the book of Nehemiah. Remember Nehemiah? When he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, he prayed for four months. 

This was not just a casual prayer. Instead, it gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, study the book of Nehemiah — particularly this prayer.

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:

1. Base your request on God’s character

Pray like you know God will answer you: “I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!” 

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Many of us find meaning in our relationships. They shape so much of our lives. One of the reasons that we end up being tired, overwhelmed and stressed out has to do with relationships and the number of them. We often join groups, teams, committees, or make volunteer commitments without much thought. Slowly our circles of relationships begin growing to the point that we know many people but lack true community.

I want you to think about every relationship you have (serving team at church, small group, PTA, children’s sports teams, work, neighbors) as a circle. You will have multiple people in a circle, but each commitment of community makes up a circle. Even if you think you don’t spend much time with it or you don’t have friends in it, like a child’s sports team, it’s a circle.

The reality is your circles all take up time. Each time you add a new circle or a circle expands because of the commitment that circle requires, you are pulling away from another circle, and you only have so much time to go around. Many times we haphazardly add circles and then lack community….

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Twenty-nine years ago this week, following God’s call to our lives, my very young family and I moved to Northwest Arkansas. I would have never imagined that one day I would be writing about my pastoral longevity here or anywhere else.

This past Sunday, I was preaching at the Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, honoring my dear friend, Dr. Ted Traylor for his twenty-five years of pastoral longevity there. Over dinner, he and Liz remarked to us how fast the years have gone.

Observing and Reflecting

While observing the Traylors this past weekend and hearing them reflect over their ministry, I was reminded of the power of reflection. Obviously, pastors who stay anywhere long enough will reflect on their own journey toward longevity.

Some pastors stay long effectively, while others stay enduringly. The former is much greater than the latter.

3 Secrets to Pastoral Longevity

In my own reflection upon life and ministry, I want to share three secrets to pastoral longevity:

1. Living with the conviction of God’s calling

Staying somewhere a long time can be extremely difficult for a pastor and his family. There are moments when leaving would be much easier than staying. There…

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