7 Thoughts For Pastors on Preparing For Christmas Services

By | Christians, Church | 2 Comments

As a pastor, I often told our staff that “Christmas is the new Easter”. It wasn’t something I could say as easily on Sunday morning without receiving the ALL CAP Monday morning emails. This requires a bit of an explanation.

Easter will always be the most important holiday for believers. Christianity is just a religion without the resurrection of Jesus. But in terms of reaching unchurched people – Christmas is the new Easter. From my experience, it appears easier to get people to attend at Christmas than it is on Easter Sunday.

Much of this has to do with the cultural implications we already deal with every Sunday. No longer is Sunday reserved as a day of rest from other activities. Going to the lake, attending a sporting event, or participating in traveling ball/dance is no longer taboo. 

Some of it has to do with the schedules of our church services. Typically, churches offer Easter services over a weekend. You could have a dozen services total. I’ve noticed churches starting their service offerings earlier in Easter week. (And I think that’s a good idea.) But regardless of the number you likely have them over a few days. Christmas-themed services can go from Thanksgiving through the New Year. (And if you want to follow the retail trend you can start decorating for Christmas in September!) 

Sadly, some of Christmas as the new Easter has to do with the message. Santa and Ho Ho Ho are more culturally acceptable at Christmas time than embracing the only One true God who got up from the grave.  (You can send me an ALL CAP email if you want, and I am certainly not agreeing with the culture on this, but it is true.) 

If this is true and Christmas is the new Easter in terms of reaching people who don’t regularly attend church, then our planning for Christmas must be more intentional than ever. 

I wanted to share a 7 thoughts with your church to consider. Many of these are things we did in our previous church. Some are derived from our experience over the last year or so sitting in the pews and visiting dozens of churches. 

My Suggestions

Recruit new volunteers. 

This one can potentially serve the church long after the Christmas celebration. You can onboard people easier during the Christmas season. Much like Easter, especially with vision-casting, church members will understand the need for new volunteers during a busier season. Use this as an advantage to get more people into key roles, but also as a discipleship tool knowing that people who serve are in a better position to be growing personally. 

Ask members to sacrifice. 

Christmas affords you a unique opportunity to ask your most committed people to serve in ways they may not otherwise. It is important to be fully staffed from the parking lot to the baby room. You will need extra greeters. People need to be willing to give up “their” seat for visitors. I personally believe you should always be thinking for your guests every Sunday. You should plan every detail you possibly can for them to experience excellence. In times where there are more visitors this is even more important. 

Pastors, this is an excellent time to vision-cast about the guest experience you want to create. Make it a big deal, because it is a big deal.

Let the story be the story. 

As a pastor, I felt so much pressure on the Christmas message. The fact that it is so well known and a part of the culture only adds to the pressure. My best advice is that you don’t have to find the new twist you’ve never shared. People watch Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas every year for a reason. “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” never gets old. The story of a baby, born to a Virgin, and laid in a manger is timeless. You don’t have to find something new. 

Share the gospel

I should have to say this. Hopefully, you don’t need that reminder, but with all the attention on the lights and tinsel, don’t forget to share the most important message of the year. A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord.

Share about the New Year. 

Find creative ways to talk about some of the things happening at your church; especially as you head into the new year. Help people understand the value regular church engagement offers them and their family. I always liked for the information we handed out to be unique from a regular bulletin. It’s nice if what people receive is big picture information about the church and our ministries at Christmas (and Easter). Visitors are more likely to read what you give them. 

Try to anticipate questions they may ask and answer them in what you hand to them. 

Christmas music. 

This was somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine. I’m sure our worship team felt my pressure here. But this is the time to sing Christmas music. I didn’t appreciate as much a service that offered songs we sang every Sunday and only one token Christmas song. 

I am not musical and have been told Christmas arrangements can be harder to put together and rehearse. This is not my area of expertise. I do know that culture actually helps us with this one. Where else can people sing Christmas music they know? They may actually sing Christmas carols they have known all their lives louder than any other time of year. Give them the opportunity even if it is simply a Christmas medley of favorites with little or no accompaniment. 

Plan good follow up.

If someone visits your church and takes time to give you information about them, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. The greatest return for visiting a church is often in the quality of the follow up after the service. People should hear from you. 

I personally like to give people options of how they want to be contacted and then obey their wishes. If they want a visit, someone needs to visit. But if they only want an email, then I would comply with their choice. But definitely let them know how much you appreciate them coming to your church.

Christmas is coming and, like most years, it seems to me like it got here sooner than last year. I pray as you prepare to meet people this Christmas that the joy of Christmas would be in your own heart and family. 

Please let me know any way we might serve you in the New Year! 

Merry Christmas!

7 First Impression Lessons from a Church Shopper

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 3 Comments

Opening disclosure. This post is going to seem negative, and I am far from a negative person. The glass is always over half full for me. I actually intend it to be positive if it encourages churches. 

The transition 18 months ago to the Dallas area was difficult when it came to finding a church to call home. In fact, I ended up taking a short-term interim pastor position for a softer landing. I grew up in the church where my parents and grandparents attended. We were there until I surrendered to vocational ministry at 38 years of age. Then I spent 16 years serving as a pastor. 

I have never been a church “shopper” until we moved to Dallas. 

But Cheryl and I learned a lot. 

First Impressions or Guest Relations, whatever term you choose to use, was always high on my priority list as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

I think my motivation came from my years in the business world. When I was in retail management I knew that the way the store looked, the merchandise was presented, and our associates treated shoppers were all vitally important parts of motivating someone to buy an item. 

Our experience

After visiting lots of different churches, in Dallas and in other cities, I have come to realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. 

I would never call any names, but in the first three churches we visited not one person said hello to us. And in two of them we attended Bible study. (True story!) We even filled out information cards, and no one contacted us. Not even an email! 

And I wish I could say that type experience ended after those three churches. It didn’t.

We started asking around and went to some churches where people told us they were very friendly. They weren’t. We often left feeling no one even knew we were there. They may be very friendly if you already knew everyone’s inside stories and the names of their kids, but they weren’t to outsiders – at least not to us.

We saw churches that had greeters, but the greeters didn’t smile and they were usually busy catching up with people they already knew. 

Please understand two things.

First, these were all good churches. I have no doubt every church we visited is making disciples. I am just sharing our experience, because I think it matters if we want to help first-time visitors (some who may not even have a relationship with Christ) become growing disciples. 

Even more important for you to understand if you’ve made it this far reading – I’m FOR the local church. This is not meant to be complaining. I want the Church to succeed and even believe the Church is the hope of the world. I’ve spent my ministry years trying to help the Church flourish. Cheryl and I always said if we weren’t serving on a church staff we want to be the best church members possible. 

I should also point out that we did find friendly churches. We found churches doing a good job at welcoming visitors. I have to be honest though that we found more that simply weren’t. 

It might also be important to know we visited primarily larger churches (500+ in attendance). This was simply because the churches that Leadership Network primarily served at the time were larger churches.

The bottom line is that if we miss first impressions, we are going to have a very difficult time growing our churches. 

7 First Impression lessons I learned as a church shopper: 

Websites matter. I don’t think I’m unusual in the fact that I never visited a church where I had not first spent time on their website. First I went to their staff page, previewed some sermons, and also checked out their Facebook and/or Instagram page mostly looking for pictures. Pictures tell a lot!

The fact that there are churches with no website amazes me. Perhaps even more is when I see a church with lots of resources that has an outdated, hard to navigate website. 

Parking lots matter. Pulling into the parking lot starts the experience of a church visit. We were so confused many times, not knowing what door to enter or where to park relative to the auditorium. Some had parking lot volunteers, but they weren’t engaging. 

I should note that we almost never used visitor parking. Some of this is because we wanted to save them for others, but also, especially as an Introvert, I didn’t want to be identified until I was ready to be identified. I did want to know where I was going though. 

Signage matters. Maybe this is just me, but I’d rather try to find my way if I can before I ask. Granted, we visited mostly larger churches, but some of them were so difficult to navigate. Some churches had no signage at all and some had signage written in a language we didn’t speak. For example, a catchy name for a building is nice, but if I want to go to the auditorium a building called “The Alley” (I made that one up) isn’t going to help me.

Imagine a family with a child wanting to go the the student ministry. If it’s in a separate building or on the other side of the building from the auditorium, calling it “The Deck” (I made that one up too) probably isn’t going to help them get there on time. And what student (or adult) loves to walk in late their first Sunday. 

Trained volunteers matter. Signage can’t solve everything. When a visitor makes the effort to ask someone, the person they ask should be able to help. We once asked a person who was handing out bulletins where a Bible study class was. He told us he didn’t know. Period. He didn’t tell us who to ask or direct us to where we could get the information, but that he simply didn’t know. 

Also, I am not sure you can have too many volunteers in this area of guest relations (starting in the parking lot). We wanted someone close enough to ask questions, but not so close that I felt uncomfortable. 

First Impressions matter. Entering the doors of a church the first time is hard. It was for me, but also for my extroverted wife. A smiling face goes a long way. Please, let me say this in love. You may not be as friendly as you think you are. This is an area I talked to our church about from behind the pulpit (or table I used) many times. It takes intentional vision-casting to remind people to be friendly to people they don’t already know. The atmosphere matters. You see the church every Sunday. It is your “home”. Visitors are new. They notice what you won’t.

Follow up matters. Again, we were surprised by the number of churches that did very little follow up if any. One church that did impress us was likely not even part of their system, but it could be systematized. A Bible study leader (a very friendly one) followed up with us a couple of months after we had visited their class. He just checked in to see if we needed anything or had found a class. Awesome! We truly felt “noticed”. 

All hands on deck matters. The one thing made clear to both my wife and me is that having a church that’s really “visitor friendly” probably starts at the top and trickles all the way throughout the church. 

I told you in the beginning this was going to appear negative. I expect some to criticize my use of the term “church shopper” and that we entered with a consumer mentality rather than a disciple mentality. Really, we just wanted to find a church. But I want you to know I really do want to help. This is such a critical part of our churches. By the way, I believe it enough that Cheryl and I joined the greeting ministry at the church where we attend. 

Yesterday I announced that I am beginning my own consulting practice. I hope to be a resource to churches in this area of Impressions. For some churches that could be onsite consulting to evaluate everything such as signage and appearance to training volunteers. Other churches may benefit in time from some online offerings – even if it is more discussions here on my blog. 

This is something I have come to realize is very important. It’s personal to me now and I want to help. I might suggest you take a few minutes and process some of this with your church staff or volunteers.

If you are a church that wants me to come to you, maybe even help you prepare for guests on Easter, send me an email and let’s talk. (Ron.Edmondson@gmail.com) 

Announcing a Life and Career Transition for Ron and Cheryl Edmondson

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 10 Comments

A Life Transition for The Edmondsons

I recently resigned my position as CEO of Leadership Network. Although my tenure is much shorter than I had anticipated when I arrived almost 18 months ago, I feel it has been a productive time for me and the organization. Leadership Network has a long, great history of helping the Church accelerate growth and innovation. I spent my time restructuring the organization and the team; hopefully positioning it for the future. At times it felt as though I was back in church revitalization.

As our new leadership team began to plan for 2020, I saw my role shifting from one of building something new to more maintaining and managing. In addition, development would become even more important in my role. Those who know me know I am not a good manager and fundraising doesn’t excite me. Plus, I had less “hands on” time with pastors and the local church than I anticipated the position affording me.  

At 55 years old, I am wise enough to know that life is short, and time is precious. Wisdom and experience tell me these should be some of my most productive years. I want to use them doing something that fuels me every day. Likewise, in fairness, Leadership Network needs someone leading who is fully engaged at what the position requires of them. 

This was not a quick decision. It was a matter of several months of prayer and discussion and gaining counsel from a few wise friends. Cheryl and I used a recent trip to Israel as a deciding time to confirm this was the right decision for us and the organization.

What’s Next

Todd Wilson, with Exponential, once advised me that I’m a “5 chip guy”. He said I must be doing multiple things to feel fulfilled. I probably should have listened closer to him then. 

Currently, unless God intervenes, after the sale of our home, we plan to move to the Nashville area where we have family and friends. This move alone excites us. We lived in the area until seven and a half years ago and have lots of community there. I will launch my own ministry serving churches and organizations in the role of consulting, writing, speaking, and preaching. Several churches have entertained the idea of me doing some intentional interim work. I’ve been doing online ministry since “dial up” days in the mid 90’s. Look for more of this in the future. 

Let me share a few broad thoughts and then I’ll unpack more of this in the days to come.

Consulting

I may be somewhat unique in that I have successful experience in both church revitalization and church planting. It fuels me to help churches (and organizations) figure out how to start, re-start and scale. I think my experience can help with a broad range of leadership issues. 

One area I am particularly interested in helping churches think through is what I’m calling Impressions. The whole guest relations area was a pet peeve of mine as a pastor. We weren’t perfect, but we were extremely intentional in thinking through how we considered visitors from the moment they Googled “church” to how we followed up with them once they came. 

After 18 months of visiting lots of different churches, I realize how poorly many churches do in this critical area – at a time when church visitors are harder to come by than ever before. I’d love to help churches think through and improve this ministry in their context. 

I wrote a post talking more about this HERE.

Adjunct staff member

Would it be of value to you if you could add some “strategic thinking” capacity to your staff team for a day or two – maybe once or maybe once a month for a year? Again, I love brainstorming and thinking through next steps. Whether it is figuring out staffing structure, organizational culture, or strategies for growth, if you’ve got a problem and need an experienced voice in the room, I’m here to help. 

Teaching/Preaching

I’m open for opportunities to guest preach at your church. Also, as invited, I will continue to speak at conferences and workshops. 

I have already agreed to one opportunity. For those of you who pastor, but never had the time (or inclination) to go to seminary, I will be working with Ed Stetzer at the Wheaton Grad School to teach two special cohorts, one for pastors of churches running 1000-2000, and another for pastors of churches over 2000. Stetzer is the dean and has developed these cohorts. (Matt Chandler is in one and he talked about it here.)

The program is not only practical, but also fosters the holistic development of spiritual maturity, theological integration, and skilled leadership. I’m thrilled to be able to be a guest lecturer in the program. The cohort model allows leaders of similar size / stage churches to learn from one another, network, and is always a time of encouragement. In addition to the Wheaton faculty, Will Mancini will also be involved. Since these are for established church leaders, we will meet 1-2 times per year for the week-long classes and the remainder of the courses will be done online with the cohort. If you’d like to participate in this cohort, go to www.wheaton.edu/mml or email MML@wheaton.edu for more information. We’re taking around 20 students, so inquire soon if you’re interested. 

Online offerings

I have provided content to pastors and other leaders through my blog, devotionals, and other resources since my first devotional site launched in the mid 90’s. There is more I can offer here, including some online coaching opportunities. Stay tuned. 

A Walk of Faith

Over 17 years ago, when I surrendered to leaving the business world and entering vocational ministry, Cheryl and I both agreed we would always be willing to walk by faith. Cheryl asked recently, “Is it okay to be 100% at peace and still be a little afraid?“ Of course it is. This is a move of faith. I always taught our churches that when we know what God would have us do the time to obey is now. God will handle the details.

Please pray for our house to sell. We would also appreciate prayers for the right opportunities to come about and be made clear.

I’m filling my first quarter calendar. If your church or organization needs my help, please email me now (ron.edmondson@gmail.com) and let’s start talking.

Ways to Help Your Pastor This Christmas

By | Christians, Church, Leadership | No Comments

One of my goals in ministry is to help protect other ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to have served in healthy churches, which encouraged my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helped. As pastor, I usually had a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even had several retired ministers in our church who could help fill in when needed.

During the Christmas season – and really into the new year – I want to share a few things you can do and a few not to do to support the ministers you probably love. The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected. Sadly, they may not even realize this until it is too late and the family is grown and out of the house.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to do and not do to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray especially for them during the holidays. Send notes and words of encouragement to them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift. This is an especially stressful time for everyone, but in some professions, such as ministry, it is not a slower time. It is a busier one.
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them. And, if they do come, try to you see them as regular people who like to have fun. Do not make them talk “Church” unless they want to and, remember, they do not always have to be the one to pray.
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Make them feel guilty when they can’t make your event. They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. Don’t take it personal. It probably isn’t. It may simply be practical. They simply can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try.
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human.
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to vocational ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?

7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Who Want to Grow Churches

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God grows churches and He works through all different types of people. I have heard great pastors say — “I know how to teach and care for the people, but I’m not always sure how to lead.” They recognize the value in and the need for leadership, but were never trained to do it well.

In my experience, there are helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to care for and disciple people, but also grow and be healthy. A church can have momentum, unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission. That usually takes leadership.

Here are a 7 helpful skills I’ve observed:

Following – Ultimately, it’s all about Christ and church growth will be a matter of prayer and the work of God’s Spirit. I can’t lead people closer to Christ unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ.

But following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Self leadership — and following others who are healthy — keeps a leader in it for the duration.

Networking – This is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission – inside and outside the church. This is likely obvious inside the church. Churches need the right people in the right seats of leadership. I often found those leaders through networking – learning who was in the church and what skills they have to offer.

One place where good relationships always proved helpful outside the church was within the local school system. Churches can make significant missional differences in their community through school relationships. Those relationships are usually formed through networking. And the possibilities here are endless.

Connecting – The best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. The pastor meeting them isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders ensure systems are created that connect people to people within the church. This skill values creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church and see that it is an intentional part of the church’s overall mission.

Vision-casting – Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next, but they can rally people behind a vision. I like to tell pastors that a good vision message (often given at a business meeting) is sometimes the most important sermon you will write.

Pioneering – To lead a church by faith, a pastor has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and often take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always starts with new — doing things differently — creating new groups, new opportunities — trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.

Delegating – No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it Biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to completing a specific aspect of attaining the overall vision.

Confronting – If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change and any change in a church involves a change in people. Most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision, and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.

That’s my list. And I believe, while you may not be naturally inclined towards each of them, most, if not all of these, can be developed with intentionality.

Releasing an Employee For A Less Obvious Offense

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent.

I’ve heard many times that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast”, but that’s much easier to say than it is to do.

When due process has been given and every reasonable attempt to restore has been exhausted as a leader, we must make the right decision for the good of everyone involved. Even as hard as it is to make, when the offense is clear:

  • A person who is caught stealing
  • Someone who lies consistently
  • When an extreme moral failure has occurred

Those still aren’t always easy decisions, but they are often easier to clarify when the offense is clearly defined.

One of the harder decisions for me, but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t clear-cut issues.

Sometimes these decisions are not for a specific offense, as much as it is the best decision for the organization. In my experience, many leaders miss these, because they are more difficult to clarify.

An example:

Years ago in the business world, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. He could sell anything and made the company money. It was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. (He was disrespectful, flippantly avoided mandatory meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.)

It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake I had to consider for the good of the company.

Here are a few other examples of situations I have experienced:

One who never meets agreed upon expectations. This one is so hard for me, because I usually let people help determine what they are going to accomplish. (I like to let people write their job descriptions and set their own goals.) And many times it isn’t a matter of whether they are a good person or not. They simply won’t do the work.

On this one I like to make sure we have provided all the resources the person needs to be successful. I want to give the process plenty of time. But when the person is no longer respected by their peers or with volunteers and everyone else is wondering why I haven’t moved sooner, I know it is time to make a hard decision.

A team member doesn’t support the overall vision or direction. They may have the skills to be outstanding. The problem is their attitude or vision differs from the organization. If left unchecked, however, these people can serve as a cancer to the team more than an asset.

A person who has theoretically “left the building”. In terms of their commitment level, they no longer have any heart for the job. This may have occurred over time and it may even be something in their personal life which has caused them to change some of what they want in life. These type are often just hanging around for a paycheck.

All of these left unattended will likely bring down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team.

Again, employment issues are always hard decisions. The harder ones for me have always been the ones without clear easy to define lines, often involving good people who are not longer a good fit. And I only shared a few. There are plenty of others I could have shared.

Leader, if I can be a voice to you here – making the right decision protects the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership.

Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback for the team. But your credibility as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.

Four Seasons of Leadership

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

After years of leading, I have learned there are four seasons of leadership. There could be more, but I’ve been able to clearly identify these four.

Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration. You may think you are doing something wrong. Yet you’re only in a different season.

Four seasons:

Some plant – Many leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter in two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing both of those churches are still thriving today. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.

Some water – Other leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams, create good structure and help things continue to grow.

Some pull weeds – Still other leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes, restructure and clear the path to progress. This was my primary role in church revitalization and in my current role.

Some harvest – Finally, other leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. These leaders know how to celebrate well and continually fuel new momentum.

Granted we do some of these within every season. And we must spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.

It’s great when you get to do all of these in one position of leadership. It hasn’t always happened for me. Also, in my experience, we only get to enjoy one or maybe a couple at any particular time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it seems rare – and difficult – to lead all four of these seasons at one time.

Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.

4 Suggestions to Protect Your Marriage This Christmas

By | Christians, Family, Marriage | No Comments

The Christmas season can be hard on relationships. As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I met with a couple after the holidays because of problems developed – or were exaggerated – between Thanksgiving and New Years.

How can you protect your marriage this Christmas? Sounds like a good goal, right?

Here are 4 suggestions to protect your marriage this Christmas:

Plan a budget together.

As a couple, agree upon how much you are going to spend and stick to it. This may require compromise. Often there is one spender and one saver in a relationship. Or two spenders. A good principle is don’t spend in December what you’re going to regret in January. Be wise on the front end.

Protect your immediate family first.

Even if it means saying no to some extended family events or time with friends, put your immediate family needs ahead of other obligations. (For years we did this wrong and we regretted it later. It wasn’t until our boys were in high school and voiced that they wanted more time with just us that we scaled back our schedule.) As a couple, agree on where you’ll spend your time this holiday season.

For parents, remember your children will only be children for a few short years.

Build traditions which actually celebrate Christmas.

We often get distracted by things which matter less. Find a way to celebrate the reason for the season together. It could be reading the Christmas story or serving at a homeless shelter. A Savior has been born – He is Christ the Lord. Lead your family to celebrate Christmas – the real Christmas – and you’ll enjoy it even more.

Don’t allow outside tensions to reign inside your home.

The Christmas season can be stressful. It’s hard to be everywhere we are expected to be. Emotions – good or bad – run abnormally high this time of year. People who don’t see each other often are in close quarters with one another. Make a decision together that outside tensions will not distract you from the closeness you have with each other or the joy of Christmas.

7 Ways to Be More Thankful

By | Leadership | 3 Comments

Are you truly thankful?

I find at times I am, and at other times, I’m like everyone else. I can be a grumbler.

What would it take to learn the secret of contentment – to really be thankful all the time?

Here are 7 ways to be more thankful:

Consider what you could NOT have that you have now – Things we take for granted, like a toothbrush, socks, flushable toilets and clean drinking water!

Stop comparing yourself to those who have more than you have – Actually, it might help to compare yourself to those who have less than you have. That gives you a proper perspective. (Need help? Go to The Global Rich List and enter your income.)

Count your blessings and name them one by one – Make a list of things you are thankful for – your family, your friends, your health, your church, your shelter, your clothes, keep it going as long as you can. Then keep it where you can find it easily. (You’ll need it again.)

Review God’s promises – They are many and they are good!

Get an eternal perspective – Step back from the current and think of your life in view of eternity. If you’re a follower of Christ, it looks pretty good, huh?

Practice giving – It’s amazing what joy comes from being sacrificial.

Think small – Look for the smallest moments of grace. A smile, a lady bug, a gentle breeze, or the beating of your own heart. (Little things are actually big if you look for and value them.)

I know these will work – now we just need to practice them.

You can start now. Leave a comment and tell me 5 things you are thankful for today.

Ask These 12 Questions And You’ll Be A Better Leader

By | Church, Leadership | One Comment

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no bad questions”?

In leadership, this might be true.

I have learned in my years of leadership – I only know what I know. And many times I don’t know much. Plus, the people I am trying to lead only know what they know.

Therefore, one of the best skills a leader can develop is the art of asking the right questions.

Here are 12 questions that can make you a better leader:

How can I better help you as your leader?

What is the biggest challenge you have in being successful here?

Do you understand what I’ve asked you to do?

What am I missing these days? What do I need to know that it doesn’t appear I do?

How would you do _______ if you were me?

What is your greatest concern for our team these days?

If we had authority to do anything – and money was no barrier – what would you like to see us do as a team/organization?

Where do you see yourself someday and how can I assist you in getting there?

What are people on the team thinking, but have been afraid to share with me?

What are you currently learning, which can help all of us?

How are you doing in your personal life and is there any way I can help you?

Is there anything you’ve wanted to say to me, but haven’t felt the freedom to do so? (And tell them now is their chance with no retribution.)

You can rephrase these for your context, but I encourage you to ask them – often. But, if you are attempting to lead people, may I suggest you start asking more questions.