Archives For Leadership


Many of you just read the title of this article and want to stop reading. From your perspective, the subtitle includes a four-letter word. It’s the P word: plan. In your mind, that means slow down and look backward before you can look forward. It means pausing to assess what’s working and what needs improvement.

It means taking your foot off the pedal for a moment to discern what’s next for your church. It means taking a break to make sure we have the right people in the right roles to tackle the right initiatives and get the right results. All of that takes time, and the way you’re wired makes slowing down to plan the next steps a huge challenge.

Let’s face it. You had a plan before, but it was in your head.

You didn’t ask for anyone else’s input when you developed that plan because you were the only person around at the time. Since then, growth has happened naturally. And that’s the problem.

Now there are more people. More leaders. More opinions. More ministries. More opportunities. Growth leads to more. And more, if unchecked, leads to complexity and plateau. Don’t believe me?

Ask the…

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Keep Climbing

Stress is just a part of ministry. If you don’t have stress in your ministry, you’re probably not being very effective. You need a certain amount of stress in your life to accomplish anything. Stress is what gives you the energy, the effort, and the ability to actually accomplish what God has called you to do.

Take a violin, for example. You have to put stress on the violin strings to make music. If you add just the right amount of stress, it creates beautiful music. On the other hand, if you tighten it too tight, the strings snap.

Stress can be a problem for our ministry as well. When you get so stressed you feel like you’re ready to pop, that’s bad for your ministry. The Bible gives us four things we need to do when we’re stressed to a breaking point.

Release your frustrations.

Stress creates all kinds of negative emotions – like anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and depression. And it can create frustration as well. What do we typically do with that frustration? Instead of taking it to God, we push it down deeper inside of us and pretend everything is…

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Almost every single senior pastor I’ve coached over the last two years has dealt with depression and burnout. I don’t think this says anything specifically about the people I’ve coached as much as it does about how hard it is to be a senior pastor in the 21st century.

I can say with certainty that virtually no one understands the immense, unrealistic, and unrelenting pressure you’re under as a leader. No local business owner understands. No CEO of a Fortune 500 company understands. No leader in any field in your church understands. Nobody, and I mean nobody, understands what you go through on a week-in, week-out basis, except the people who have walked in your shoes.

You are absolutely and utterly unique in the pressures placed upon you. Do other leaders in other fields face wildly difficult pressures? Of course! But if they blow it in their jobs people don’t go to hell. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so don’t get me started.

Dealing with Depression as a Pastor

One mistake I see senior pastors make when they realize they’re depressed and/or burned out is they quickly go to counseling or get anti-depressant prescriptions without also…

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The first step in growing your church while preventing burnout is conducting a heart check. Now, I’m not referring to your physical heart.  (Although if you’re already 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 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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Every week across the country, people put their hard-earned money into an offering plate as it’s passed down the aisle. There’s an implicit trust they place in church leaders to use that money wisely and with integrity. Church finance teams need to put certain safeguards in place to honor and maintain that trust.

Tip 1: Require at least three people to be present while counting the offering

Although text-to-give and online giving are becoming more popular, many people still give cash or checks. If you have three or more individuals present while counting the offering, it’s much harder for any one person to steal from the congregation.

Also, consider the reputation of the people counting the offering. If there’s ever a question about the amount deposited or concerns about the totals, it’s easier to provide evidence that the amounts were accurate when multiple people signed off during the counting process.

Tip 2: Clearly define levels of financial authority

Document and communicate who has authority to do the following:

  • Sign checks (and at what amounts)
  • Incur debt on behalf of the church
  • Establish new bank accounts
  • Use church debit/credit cards (for what types of purchases and at…

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Clear Lake

No matter how many times I hear it, it still shocks me: A pastor announces his resignation because of adultery. Often it’s with someone within his church, sometimes even someone actively involved in ministry, such as a choir member or Sunday school teacher.

It’s such an incredible waste of God’s resources that it not only grieves me, it angers me. I have told my staff that if any of them even flirt with temptation, I will come after them with a baseball bat, and I’ve told them to do the same with me.

As Christian leaders, we need to be above reproach. Paul wrote, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Corinthians 10:12 MSG).

That’s why I established these Saddleback Staff Standards for maintaining moral integrity:

  1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex. *
  2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you. *
  3. Thou shalt not kiss any attendee of the opposite sex or show…

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We’re struggling! More people than ever before are falling prey to sexual temptation, especially through viewing pornography.

Unfortunately, many pastors admit (anonymously) to viewing pornography as well.

If this is a temptation for you, here are some steps to take . . .

Be honest when you’re fatigued and take a rest.

When you’re tired, you are vulnerable to a lot of things – discouragement, depression, and temptation. The Bible encourages us to work for six days and rest on the seventh. If you’re not taking a day off every week, you’re breaking the fourth commandment. Take a day off.

It’s particularly important to take some time off after a spiritual and emotional high. No doubt you’re familiar with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18, where he had a big God contest with the prophets on Mt. Carmel. Right after that, he’s in the desert saying, God, I want to die. Take my life. Fatigue is a hazard of being in the ministry, and it lowers our resistance to temptation.

Don’t believe your own hype.

In ministry, you’re put on a pedestal with lots of people admiring you. After one high-profile leader sinned sexually and stepped down temporarily from…

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I’m seeing a disturbing trend.

As of late, a number of highly gifted friends of mine who are senior pastors of small to medium-sized churches have come perilously close to burning out.

Now, there has always been burnout in ministry as long as there have been senior pastors. But my read on this is that the stress placed on the shoulders of leaders in the trenches is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.

People are attending less, serving less, giving less, and demanding more. And you and I know whom this ends up affecting the most.

Listen, I can’t change the demands being placed on you, but I might be able to give you some practical ideas about how to simplify your life and keep your tank filled.

1. Take a dull axe to your overloaded weekly schedule.

One of the first things I do when I begin coaching someone is spend an exorbitant amount of time figuring out how they’re wired, then challenging every single thing they have on their calendar. We forcibly align what they say their priorities are with the actual, realistic, finite amount of time they have to accomplish these things.

All sermon writing gets done by Wednesday at…

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168. That’s it.

You and I have exactly the same amount of time. Rich or poor, young or old, we each get 168 hours in a week’s time.

With some of that, we need to rest, or we’ll get fewer total weeks in our short lives. With some of that time, we need to spend quality time with people, building friendships and relationships.

And with some of that time, we work. Actually, most of us work during a lot of those168 hours, proportionally speaking.

How many times have you gotten to the end of the day, or the week, or maybe just Monday morning and said, “If I just had more time, I’d . . . ”

Reality check: You can’t get more time.

But what you can do is expand your capacity. You have the ability to be more fruitful with the same amount of time you’re working now.

I recently wrote on another website about the difference between bandwidth and capacity, and how we often confuse the two.

Bandwidth pertains to how much time we have for a given area of life, such as family, work, or volunteering. And capacity refers to how much fruit I am able to bear in…

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Not Giving UpStatistically, this is the time of year when most people abandon the goals they set just a few weeks ago, giving into the idea that change is either hopeless or just too hard. We often give different names to the reasons for our failures:

Time – usually not enough of it.
Tough – the task is just too hard.
Terrible – to describe how you feel on the new diet, wake/sleep pattern, budget, etc.

The answer for most of these problems is simple though: maintaining consistency. Simple concept, yes, but difficult practice. The behaviors we repeat often define the reality of our lives. Aristotle may have said it best when he said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle

You have probably heard that a habit can be created or broken in a matter of just 21 days. But more recent research has shown that this isn’t really accurate. The study reveals that the actual number is 66 days with variation of between 18 and 254 days depending on the specific habit being developed. Yes, some habits are harder to form,…

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Future Road

When a pastor compares himself to another pastor, it usually leads to discontentment. When a pastor has unrealistic expectations about his future, it may lead to extreme disappointment.

Finding your future as a pastor can be difficult. When you talk about it with others, it can place you in a vulnerable place. This is one reason we are reluctant to talk about the future, but it can also be because we fear others will misunderstand us.

Sooner or later, a pastor has to come to these four resolutions in order to find his way to the future.

Resolution #1: God will take care of your future.

We need to do all we can to be available to God and always do what is necessary to improve ourselves. But above all, through it all and after it all, we have to know God will take care of our future.

He has the power to put us down and he has the power to lift us up. He has the power to place us where he desires us to serve.

The bottom line, pastor, is this: God will take care of your future.

Resolution #2: Be aware of who you really…

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Can you really become an overnight success? No. Let’s be real. Actual “success” is the sum of all kinds of effort and energy over periods measured in years, not nights.

Can you lose your success overnight? Yep.

J. J. Watt said, “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased, and rent is due every day.”

When someone living is described as successful, we have to remember that we’re talking about someone living through the process of becoming successful. And one of the more dangerous decisions we can make is declaring ourselves successful based on yesterday’s victories.

This principle is illustrated well by the ancient King David of Israel. When he was a kid, he defeated a lion and a bear. As a teenager, he took down Goliath. And in early adulthood, he was anointed king in the place of Saul and led his nation in great military conquests, delivering them from the oppression of the Philistines.

That’s success, right?

But in midlife, a single decision nearly ruined it all. In fact, that decision was extremely costly for David, and even more so for the people he was leading.

Here’s the story . ….

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