Archives For Leadership

5 Truths for Ministering to Those with Mental Illness

I’ve always said our greatest ministry comes out of our greatest pain. That’s why Kay and I have focused the last few years on helping churches better engage people with mental illness.

Many of you know that our younger son, Matthew, battled mental illness almost his entire life. His profound suffering impacted everyone in our family. He experienced many, many moments of despair over his short 27 years of life. Then, in 2013, in one impulsive moment of despair, Matthew took his life.

In the months after Matthew’s death, Kay and I decided we wouldn’t waste our pain. We wanted God to use the pain to help local churches around the world faithfully serve the mentally ill.

As we prayed about what God wanted us to do to help Saddleback and other churches minister in this area, God gave us five biblical truths to establish the foundation of everything we do:

1.  Every person has dignity.

God made every single person in his image and for his purpose. Mental illness doesn’t change that truth one bit. If a person’s heart is beating right now, God has a…

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Building Your Ministry on the Promises of God

What makes Christian leaders distinctly Christian?

Some say it’s how they lead—by serving others rather than using forced authority.

Some say it’s the motivation—they lead for Jesus’ sake and to build up the body of Christ.

Those are both great answers, but I believe distinctly Christian leadership is based upon the promises of God.

By some estimates, there are somewhere around 5,000 promises of God in the Bible. Our God is a promise-making God. He is a covenant-keeping God. He made promises to every major leader in the Bible—such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, and Paul.

And God makes promises to you and me, too.

You can base your ministry on a variety of different factors, from your own cleverness to your own giftedness. I’ve chosen to base mine upon the promises of God. I have found, as Joshua did at the end of his life (read Joshua 21:45), that every one of God’s promises has been fulfilled.

I’ve built my ministry on these eight promises.

1. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”
(2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV).

God used…

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11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

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10 Reasons Every Christian Should Share the Message of Jesus

Every person in your church has a message to share with the world. The middle-aged business owner has one. The single parent has one. The 10-year-old you just baptized has one. The 95-year-old in a senior citizen home has one, too.

As pastors, we understand that every member is a minister. And so telling others about who Jesus is and what he came to do isn’t a commission meant just for us.

The Bible makes it clear that God has called every believer to share the Good News.

I know it’s not easy to get everyone in our congregations to commit to evangelism. And it can be frustrating to hear people say they don’t know what to say, they don’t have time, or they are embarrassed to talk about spiritual matters.

At Saddleback, we’ve learned that explaining why evangelism is so important helps people understand the necessity and value of sharing their faith. Here are 10 reasons from the Bible why God wants us to share our faith.

1. God made us to know him.

Human beings are unique. God made us in his image. We have a…

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Breaking the Chains of Hopelessness

The first time Rick publicly prayed at a weekend church service for people living with a mental illness, his words were simple. He asked God to bring comfort and strength to anyone living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness. He asked God to reassure them that their pain and suffering mattered to God and to their brothers and sisters, and to remind them that as a church family, we would do all we could to offer support to them and their families.

The response from the congregation was astonishing. As he stood on the patio following the services, dozens of men and women who were living with a mental illness, or who loved someone living with a mental illness, lined up to give him a hug and to thank him for bringing their struggle into the light. Many spoke through their tears about the deep gratitude they felt to hear mental illness mentioned from the pulpit in such a loving and positive way. “I’ve kept my illness a secret at church,” several said. “I didn’t know it was okay to talk about it.”

That simple,…

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6 Ways to Prevent Vision Drift in Your Church

Your most important job as a church leader isn’t to hire and fire. It isn’t to manage a budget. It isn’t to mentor younger leaders. It’s not even to preach.

All of those tasks are important. They’re part of what you do as a church leader.

But your main job as a leader is to remind your congregation continually of your church’s vision. Everything else you can delegate. You can’t delegate vision.

Proverbs says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” You have a lot riding on the vision you communicate to your church.

Communicating vision get harder and harder—and much more important—as your church grows. I saw this firsthand at Saddleback. If you’ve heard the story of Saddleback, you know I shared a vision for the future of the church during our trial run, a week before our official launch.

At first, it was relatively easy to keep the church focused on the vision. When we were small, the only people who came were non-Christians. They had zero expectations about what church should be like. All they knew was Saddleback. We didn’t have a children’s ministry, a youth…

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How to Be a Decisive Leader

One thing that will create stress for you, your staff, and even your congregation is when you are indecisive. It is a form of double-mindedness, and James says that leads to instability (James 1:8).

I think part of the problem is that we complicate decisions, often factoring in information that isn’t really important, relying on our own wisdom while failing to specifically seek God and his wisdom.

When I find myself stuck over a decision, I go back to the basics with these four steps:

1. I admit I need God’s guidance to make any decision. 

None of us can see the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow—much less next year or 10 years from now. The Bible says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). On the other hand, God knows everything that has happened to you, that is happening to you, and that will happen to you. In order to keep our ministries heading in the direction God desires, we have to go to him for guidance in making decisions.

2. I ask…

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3 Ways to Replace Busyness with Purpose in Your Ministry

More than 70 percent of pastors say they work between 55 to 75 hours every single week.

Those numbers may not surprise you. But they should.

Just like all the people you serve in ministry every week, you were created for a specific purpose—and that purpose isn’t fulfilled simply through activity and busyness. You might think those late nights hunched over your computer and all those times you’ve skipped family meals are helping you fulfill your unique purpose.

But your purpose is more than what you do on Sunday mornings. It’s more than what you do in meetings and hospital visits. Those activities may helpyou fulfill your purpose, but they must not define your purpose.

Every pastor, just like every person, is driven by something. Many are driven by the pressures around them. Others are driven by responding to crises in their midst—and there are plenty of those, right? Some pastors are driven by the expectations of those they lead.

But God wants something more from us. He wants us to live purpose driven lives. You can’t lead others to make the most of their lives if…

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Why Every Pastor Must Empower and Release Leaders

I know my leadership style. I’m a big-picture, vision-casting leader. The details, frankly, don’t hold much appeal to me.

By itself, my leadership style wouldn’t accomplish much. But surrounded by staff and volunteer teams whose gifts complement mine, I’ve watched God achieve many milestones through Saddleback Church.

He is, after all, both the giver of vision and the giver of those who can handle the details that breathe life into vision.

There’s nothing inherently right or inherently wrong about being a vision-casting leader. It’s simply the way God wired me. He may have wired you differently. The key is for each of us to recognize our personal style, up front.

Then we can recruit a team with gifts that will enhance and supplement our style. This is important because God calls the church a body with many different parts, each having different gifts. Each part is necessary for the overall health of the body.

There’s tremendous power in cooperation. We do our best work when, instead of jockeying for position or trying to build a base of power, we work together—building on each other’s strengths and shoring up each…

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It’s impossible to estimate the kind of good the church could do for the world if every believer was financially healthy and spiritually mature in the area of generosity.

The problem is, the church is hurting in this area–badly. According to USA Today,

The average American household carries $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest numbers.

Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income was just $59,039 last year, suggesting that many Americans are living beyond their means.

I believe we, as church leaders, often underestimate the amount of financial pressure most families feel because we want to trust that people would be open about poor financial management. But the fact is, people are private about finances.

And pastors, we’re not immune. Many pastors have a hard time teaching about money because of the personal guilt they feel about their own financial problems.

Debt is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. But how do we get out from under it?

We’ve got to commit to these eight steps and help the people in our congregations do the same.

1. Commit to becoming debt-free now.

Pastor, this is the…

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 Keys to Small Group Ministry

I have this displayed on my office whiteboard: “Vision without implementation equals hallucination.” I believe in vision. If you don’t have a plan for implementing your vision, you are wasting your time. Success involves the management of ideas. Ideas can provide wonderful breakthroughs for your ministry. However, trying to implement too many ideas at once can crush or fragment your ministry. Here are five important keys to begin building a solid foundation for your small group ministry . . .

  1. Think Church-wide

Each local church is meant to be a unified body, working together in a coordinated way toward a common purpose. This means that as you plan your small group ministry, you should start by thinking church-wide. The weekend services, the small groups, and the other church ministries all work together to achieve the outcome of a mature disciple — what Saddleback calls the Purpose Driven Life.

  1. Plan Intentionally 

Whole-church coordination doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional planning. As Christians, it is possible to get caught in the passive “If God wants it to happen, it will happen” trap, and this can often…

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What God Starts He Finishes

Before Saddleback moved to its present location, we bought a big chunk of land. While I thought at the time it was a dream come true, it turned out there were giants in the land.

The county began heaping on ridiculous requirements. First they wanted to allow us to build on only nine acres of the property.

Then they instructed us to build a berm — an eight foot ridge of dirt — along the front of the property to hide the building.

Then they decided we’d need to move 150 trees from the back of the property to the front of the property and plant them on that berm.

Next, they told us we couldn’t build a 7,000-seat worship center. Instead, we could build a 1,000-seat worship center and have seven services.

Then they demanded that we put in a charcoal filtration water system so that the water that ran off the parking lot would be nice and pure as it went into the gutter.

Then they told us we couldn’t build a parking lot. We’d have to build a parking garage.

Finally, they decided we couldn’t build a preschool because “that’s not a legitimate…

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