Archives For Leadership

Over a period of months in 2005, God led me to realize that it was time to transition out of my role as pastor. The final confirmation came while I was preaching the last message in a series on Disciplemaking in December. The theme of the message was on obedience.I remember talking about how God called Abraham to leave the land in which he was living to go to a land which God would show him. And Abraham obeyed God.And I had this sense that I wasn’t preaching to others any more – that God was using my mouth to preach to my heart. It’s kind of a weird thing when this happens.
If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what I’m talking about. God had my attention.Then I went to the New Testament where Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John to follow Him. And the text says in Matthew 4, “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” And I started talking about how delayed obedience is disobedience.

When I’d tell my kids to do something, I expected them…

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I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but let me share three lessons I’ve learned amidst the balancing act of leading both a church and a family.

When she finished singing; I strode up to preach.  No words came out of my mouth — but tears flowed freely from my eyes. I stood there speechless.

I later learned that our Children’s Ministry Director was in that service with her young son.  At that moment, he turned and said, “Mommy, Why is Mr. Stone crying?”

Linda candidly replied, “Well son, when the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, sometimes you cry.”

1. Involve your children in your ministry

The earlier you prime the pump, the greater the likelihood they’ll embrace faith and Christian service.  Now don’t overdo it, be discerning.  We try to make ministry fun.  As a little kid it was fun to come to Dad’s office, each child had a box with their name on it, and every once in a while there would be a surprise in there for them.

In their teen years we had a couple of annual traditions, family campouts IN the church building on the first night of March Madness,…

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LifeWay Research surveyed 7,000 churches in 2008 to discover the principles involved with healthy congregations. Last year, LifeWay’s researchers went back into the field to focus on individual believers, asking more than 4,000 people about their spiritual lives and level of maturity.

The project has identified eight biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer. Those “attributes of discipleship” are:

  1. Bible engagement
  2. Obeying God and denying self
  3. Serving God and others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building relationships
  8. Unashamed transparency

“Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations, so we wanted to discover the common traits for those maturing in their faith,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We have collected and analyzed a huge amount of data about how each of these attributes leads to transformational discipleship in an individual believer,” Stetzer said. “Due to the sheer volume of material , it will take several months to complete our analysis and release.”

Stetzer said the project’s purpose is to assist church leaders in discovering how to help their members grow, because “spiritual growth does not happen by accident.”


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ServeOne of the best ways to include more people in ministry is to create a rotation for your ministries that alternates weekly.  At present, we have a 6 week ministry rotation at our church.  This was started because as we continued to grow, we began to notice two things.  First,  the people who were involved in ministry were getting burned out from serving every week.   Second,  it was becoming harder to find valuable ministry opportunities for people to become involved in as they began to come to the church.  We started looking for solutions.  We realized our Children’s Ministry Director already had a 6 week rotation in place for her ministry that was working effectively.  It didn’t take us long to see that this was something that needed to be implemented into every ministry.  Instantly we had more opportunities to serve than we had people to fill the opportunities.  But this also gave us room to continue to grow and develop.  We also saw that people were able to serve in 2 and 3 ministries without conflict because of this style of rotation.  This helped them to be able…

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He didn’t have time to encourage a confused kid, but he did anyway.

He was Hoffman Harris, the busy pastor of fast-growing Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga. The confused kid was me.

I was a new member of his church back in the ’70s. I was finishing college and struggling with a call to serve God. Pastor Harris had sermons to write and things to do. He had hundreds of other people and priorities clamoring for his attention. But he made time on a regular basis to talk to me, patiently answer countless dumb questions and connect me to key people he knew from his many years in ministry.

When I became a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the Home (now North American) Mission Board, he persuaded an understandably doubtful mission committee at Briarlake to provide partial support for an untested, untried young man. After I left the Atlanta area to join the IMB staff in Richmond, Va., he kept in touch with me — more faithfully than I kept in touch with him.

There was something about “Hoff.” When he preached or talked to you, he…

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Mean people suck, especially when you are forced to work with them.

Mean people (aka Toxic) come in various forms … passive-aggressive, jealous, forceful, rude, loud, selfish, hateful, & so on.

Think organization morale is the only problem you have with a toxic employee? Guess again. What about loss wages in productivity? Added wages in “dealing” with the problem person. Why are you keeping people like that on your team? Whatever reasons you have … you’ve likely never considered the other side of their toxicity on your other employees.

Look at this research … here’s how employees respond to toxic co-workers:

  • 80 percent lost work time worrying about the offending employees’ rudeness
  • 78 percent said their commitment to the organization declined
  • 66 percent said their performance declined
  • 63 percent lost time avoiding the offender
  • 48 percent decreased their work effort

Worse yet, when you keep people like this on your team, that need to go … you demonstrate to your team that you are sanctioning incompetence. And, the impact of that … (people perceiving you as scared and an inadequate leader who won’t act) … will cost…

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In the context of serious theological discussions, it may seem trivial to write about first impressions of guests when they visit your church. But if we could understand that a returning guest has more opportunities to hear the Gospel and experience Christian love and fellowship, we might take the issue a bit more seriously.

Prior to assuming the presidency of LifeWay Christian Resources, I led a church consulting company. One of our first steps in the consultation was to send one or more first-time guests to the church. Those individuals would then report back to us on their experiences. Many times those we enlisted were unchurched non-Christians.

As I write this, I am working at home because a handyman is working on several small items around my house. I love his approach. When he first enters our home, he asks for permission to take a quick tour. Within minutes, he commented on several items that might need his attention, items that weren’t on the list I gave him. I appreciated his thoroughness, and it was good for his business as well.

The handyman did something very basic and very simple….

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Guest column by Dave Miller

I had a shocking conversation with an old friend recently. He told me that his wife, whom I had known as a vibrant, passionate, committed Christian, had abandoned her family, her faith and embraced a life of sin with wild abandon. I would have never believed that it was possible. I’d preached to her, talked with her about deep spiritual matters, and watched her grow. What happened?

As I pondered that chilling event, my mind cast back to a pastors’ conference I attended nearly 20 years ago. The prominent pastor who hosted the conference was discussing the ongoing problem of moral failure among pastors. And then he said something that shocked me: “That is never going to happen to me. It is not in me to cheat on my wife, to commit adultery. I just do not have that in me.”

To my knowledge, this pastor has remained faithful to his wife. But that doesn’t change the fact that I think his confidence was foolish. I am a redeemed sinner, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and in the process of transformation to become like…

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In this series we are advancing the  notion of  ”Bucket List Living;” that is, how do we experience a more meaningful life through goal setting.

As my blog is directed toward ministry leaders, I want to deal briefly with the potential push-back to the series: Is it selfish to dream big and set goals for self-fulfillment? At first blush, I would say, “it absolutely CAN be!” Anything we do — even then most “spiritual” things — may be driven by hidden motives that are self-driven rather than God-inspired. So a better question might be, “When does a bucket-list aspiration become an act of pure indulgence rather than an expression of glorifying God?

I recommend running your goals or bucket list items through a four-question filter. I think of these as ways to redeem your dreams. Quite frankly, these questions have exposed my own selfishness and helped me to redefine or redirect  my aspirations. Consider these questions:

Filter #1: How is the goal facilitating deeper intimacy or special bonding with people?

Relationships matter in God’s world. The simplest way to see build a bucket list for God’s purposes is to see them…

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3 levels of spiritual mentoring that will keep your leadership coaches in the game

Leadership coaches face burn out and fatigue just as any uncared-for small group leader does.

As a pastor or staff member, one of your jobs is to focus on the needs of your leadership coaches and supervisors to ensure that they want to stick around and help you turn spiritual seekers into multiplying “shepherds.” Often just a little extra effort will pay off big. Let’s take a look at three main areas:

1. “Who Are You?”

This focuses on relationship and friendship. To develop a deeper relationship with your coaches:

a. Pray with them. Ask what you can pray for on their behalf.
b. Take a genuine interest in their family.
c. Write them notes of encouragement often.
d. Call them or send them cards on their birthdays or anniversaries.
e. Make sure you know their life story.
f. Make a point to have fun together.

2. “How Are You?”

This focuses on transparency and accountability. To help your coaches in their personal growth:

a. Share what God is teaching you-take them to Scripture.
b. Share personal struggles and victories.
c. Share the value of a assessing a group’s “health” from your personal perspective.
d. Assess the health of the coach’s…

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Andy and BarneyWhen Andy Griffith died, my mind was flooded with the memories of watching him and Barney do their thing in Mayberry. And I thought of somethings Andy did that would help the church…

1. Never carry a gun

I loved the way Andy could keep the peace, protect the innocent and catch the bad guys…without a gun.

In the church world, we could learn from that. People don’t respond very well to force or a show of force. If we are patient and let others “catch it” and not force it, we will see a greater return.

2. Be loyal to your right-hand

Andy was very loyal to Barney. It didn’t matter how many mistakes he would make, he believed in him, and Barney became better because of Andy’s investment in him.

Look for those that may not fit around you now, but with some investment, will prove to be your greatest asset.

3. Don’t be defensive

I never saw Andy get offended when someone didn’t go with his idea or would out right criticize it.

Being defensive is a sure sign  of immaturity and pride. If it’s God’s thing, then let…

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headlinesIdeas for churches ministering to families dealing with an STD diagnosis:

  • Don’t be judgmental and condemning — “Come alongside with compassion and mercy.” Dr. David Hager, Ob/Gin and author of “Women at Risk: The Real Truth About Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”
  • Offer accountability and encouragement — “The church can help those get back on track by making sure the teen and family are plugged in with people who truly care about them.”  Sarah Hughes, Executive Director of the House of Hope in Clayton, N.C.
  • Help the teen learn from the mistake and move on — “For the teenager: It doesn’t define you. Focus on who you are in Christ, walk in forgiveness and move forward.” Sarah Hughes

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Ideas for parents of a teen with an STD:

  • Make sure proper medical care is received — “The most important thing is to obtain adequate medical care and then discuss ways to avoid repeating the behavior that resulted in the infection.” David Hager
  • Keep communication open — “Treat teens with respect and be someone they are not afraid to talk to.” Sarah Hughes
  • Work with the parents of the other child — “Talking with the family of…

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