A Leadership Quandary: To Change or Not to Change

I love continual improvement. I am one of those who actually enjoys change. If things stay the same too long I get bored and begin looking for a new challenge. I even stir things for fun sometimes – just to keep life interesting around me. (This is not always a positive characteristic. Ask my wife.)

Personality aside, however, the truth is not everyjthing needs to be tweaked. Some things are probably working okay, achieving great success, and are best left alone for the time being. Change for the sake of change sake is not always good. When Momma said “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and the other cliché about “the grass is always greener”, she was speaking from some life experience.

There is a fine line between making things better and messing things up. One of the great challenges for the leader is carefully considering the balance intention between instigating change for the good of the organization or team and allowing progress to continue without interference.

Determining when to make change and when to leave things the same is one of the most delicate decisions of leadership, but I know one thing for sure:

It’s working” should also never be the primary reason to avoid change, either.

It could be a reason. But, it should not be the fallback reason or used as an excuse not to change.

There are some indicators change could be needed. A few might be:

  • When energy is starting to wane with the status quo
  • When potentially damaging variables are beginning to impact the organization
  • When change can result in greater efficiency or realization of the organization’s mission
  • When it is clear a change will be needed soon to remain competitive or relevant

Organizations and teams need change. (Churches are included here.)

Change keeps momentum going. At times change is needed simply to build a culture of change. And, you often discover something wonderful you would have never discovered without change.

I am always reminded leaders want to be in environments of change. Leaders are most comfortable when they can explore, take risks, and keep things stirring. There’s a reason marketers are always changing things – it’s not just leaders who want change – people tend to like change too, even when they don’t think they do. (Apple has made a fortune knowing this.)

Sometimes a little change, even a little drama, will motivate a team into action.

There is an example which illustrates a change principle of organizational dynamics.

You’ve seen it happen many times. Your ball team is behind in the game. The referee makes what you and the rest of your team’s fans believe is a bad call. It energizes the crowd and the team and helps spur your team on to victory.

If things are becoming dull or routine in your organization, as the leader you may need to stir up some change, even if it seems disruptive at the time. There are times to change just for the sake of creating more energy. This doesn’t mean you change your overall vision and your attempt should be to make a positive change, but if things are stagnating some change may be needed. It would almost be better to have a change that didn’t work than to allow things continue at a standstill.

So while change isn’t always necessary, “it’s working” shouldn’t keep you from considering change either.

Which makes the decision of when to change that much more difficult, doesn’t it? I almost need a default zone for when to make change and when to leave things alone.

One rule of thumb for me: If there hasn’t been any change recently – chances are good it’s time.

The Life of an Idea on a Healthy Team

Healthy teams allow every idea a chance to live. At initial thought, there are no bad ideas.

The healthiest teams don’t contain a built in idea killer. And, if there is one they aren’t allowed to remain so for long.

Ideas need a chance to breathe. They need to be stretched and prodded and examined. The best ideas sometimes come from what started as a seemingly really bad idea. Genius ideas are often killed before they have a chance to develop into their greatness.

That’s why healthy teams have freedom and regularly:

  • Brainstorm
  • Analyze
  • Test drive
  • Push back
  • Critique
  • Debate
  • Challenge
  • Collaborate 
  • Dialogue 
  • Listen
  • Discuss 

Every. Single. Idea. 

Healthy teams remain open-minded about an idea until it’s proven to be a bad idea.

It doesn’t have to be a long process. It could be a short process.

But, healthy teams give every idea a chance to live.

That is because healthy teams know there is value in the collection of ideas on a team.

Leader, next time your team gets together open the floor of discussion to ideas. Let everyone put ALL their ideas on the table, with no fear of embarrassment or retribution. Watch for collective brilliance to develop .

Have you ever worked with an idea killer? How did it impact the team?

Don’t Address the HOW until you Address the WHAT

A principle of leadership

I’ve seen it many times.

You have an idea – it’s not a bad idea – it may even be a great idea. You just don’t know yet. As soon as you present the idea the team instantly starts to ask tons of question, begin implementing the plan, and gets bogged down in details.

And, then, after time of discussion – sometimes hours – the team decides its not a good idea after all.

Here’s my advice. I use this with the teams I lead.

Spend your energies at first on deciding whether it’s an idea worth pursuing.

The what.

The what is “what” you are going to do. The current dream you have moving forward. The overall objective. The big picture of what’s next.

Decide the what before you spend a lot of energy on the mechanics of the idea.

The how.

The how is how you are going to do the what. These are the details. The nitty gritty working plan. You may have to talk about some of the how to decide the what, but spend your first, best and most energy on the what.

For example, let’s say you have an idea to add a third church service to allow for more growth – or maybe you are thinking of going multi-site – or the idea could be to plant another church. Don’t spend too much time on the how, until you decide the what.

Ask hard questions such as: Is this an idea worth pursuing? Are we willing to give it a try? Has this been birthed in prayer? Do we believe this is something we are supposed to do?

Yes or no?  

Spending too much time on the how before you address the what:

  • Gets you bogged down in details you may never need.
  • Wastes energy which could be used elsewhere if you aren’t going to do the what.
  • Solves problems you don’t yet and may never have.
  • Creates division about change prematurely.
  • Builds momentum before it’s time. (And, it’s harder to build momentum a second time.

When you know you’re going to do the what – you have to, you’re called to, it’s what or bust – you’ll figure out the how. You’ll find a way to make it happen. You’ll have more passion, clarity and energy to address the how.

Try that next time an idea surfaces and is discussed by your team.

Note: This is assuming, of course, you already know your “why” as an organization. You know why you are doing whatever you are doing. This post addresses a more specific aspect of realizing the vision. If you don’t yet have the why – start there.

7 Ways to Keep a Leader on Your Team

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to attract and retain leaders.

I previously posted reasons leaders tend to leave an organization. (Read that post HERE.) The goal then is to find ways to keep a leader energized to stay with the team – so I thought a companion post was appropriate.

I’m writing from the perspective of all organizations, but keeping leaders should certainly be a high priority in the church.

I never want to stop someone from pursuing a better opportunity, but I don’t want to send them away because I didn’t help them stay.

The reality is leaders get restless if they are forced to sit still for long. Good managers are comfortable maintaining progress, but a leader needs to be leading change. In fact, leaders even like a little chaos. Show a real leader a problem ready to be solved and they are energized.

Here are a few suggestions to encourage leaders to stay:

Give them a new challenge.

Let them tackle something you’ve never been able to accomplish. (Even tell them you’re not certain it can be done.) Leaders love to do what others said couldn’t be done. Or what no one has figured out yet how to do. Let the leader be a precursor to what’s next for the organization. Let them experiment somewhere you’ve wanted to go, but haven’t tried. They may discover the next big thing for the organization.

Allow them to explore a specific area of interest to them.

Leaders are attracted to environments where they can explore – especially in areas where they have a personal interest or where they want to develop. This may even be outside their direct job description. Give them permission to do something new.

Invest in them.

Mentor them personally. This is huge for younger leaders. They crave it, but don’t always know how to ask for it. This is not micromanaging. This is helping them learn valuable insight from your experience and exposing them to other good leaders.

Give them more creative time to dream.

This is a stretch for some structures, but it’s needed to retain leaders. It doesn’t mean people aren’t held accountable, but I prefer to do so with goals and objectives rather than with a time clock. You might keep someone from feeling stifled if you give them more margin in how they spend their time.

Don’t burden them with your fears.

I’ve seen this so many times when a senior leader gives other leaders in the organization more responsibility. It makes the leader nervous, so they revert to controlling and micromanagement. They don’t give them a chance to prove themselves. They try to tell them how to do things. Fear is what is discerned by others. And, it doesn’t communicate you trust them. It doesn’t mean you are absent from the process. It is hard to release responsibility to someone unproven, but you must stifle your fears and let them learn to lead. Stay close enough to jump in when requested or when it is absolutely required.

Allow him or her to help you lead/dream/plan for the organization.

Include them in discussions and brainstorming in which they normally would not be included. The more they feel included the more loyal they will be.

Reward them.

If they are doing well – let them know it. Praise them privately and publicly and compensate them fairly. What is celebrated gets repeated.

Keeping a leader on your team will be at challenge for you as a leader. You will have to stretch yourself to stretch them. But, it’s almost always worth it. As they grow, you grow, and the entire organization grows.

Leadership in Marriage: I Now Pronounce You Leader and Co-Leader

A Guest Post by Timothy Paul

At the time of this writing, I have been married for ten months. It’s been an incredible ride with Christie, my wife, and I’m very lucky to have found someone like her — beautiful, affectionate, sophisticated.

I always joked when people ask me how marriage is going – “It’s marital bliss! Everyday is better than the last!” And while I love my wife to death, everyday is not always better than the last. Some days there are arguments, uncomfortable situations, and emotional storms that come with the complexities of sharing every part of your life with another person.
Weirdly single for most of my life, I did not always know what to expect when preparing for a lifelong relationship. Confrontation-averse, I thought the greatest of couples wouldn’t squabble and could really only go as far as kindly disagreeing. Compromise killed arguments like Round-Up on weeds. Or at least I used to think.

In knowing that a marital relationship is not always going to feel like a tropical paradise, I now understand that taking an active leadership role in the relationship is critical to a healthy and successful marriage. Mitigating challenges with finances, occupations, and children are ongoing and need constant attention.

To date, I have learned two valuable leadership lessons that create a healthy relationship.

KINDNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS

As an aspiring cookbook author, naturally my wife loves to cook. And I consider myself the luckiest man on the planet because she cooks dinner for me every single night when I get home. Always a healthy meal, she is relentless in the kitchen. She whips up some of the best meals a man could ask for.

Not only that, she does a hefty amount of chores that I, admittedly, do not like to do. She’s a bathroom cleaning, dish rinsing, dog washing, laundry folding, sheet changing, interior decorating, grocery shopping machine! All she kindly asks is that I take out the garbage and put my dishes in the dishwasher. Full disclosure, I usually bat .500 with that.

It has taken me a while to realize that she doesn’t do these things because she necessarily enjoys them. She does them because they need to be done! And she is sacrificing her time and energy for me! Her self-interest routinely takes a backseat to my occupational needs. This kindness is not weakness, but rather awesome strength.

Even more, her kindness is not a method of surrender. It is an active an strategic process that is rooted in self-sacrifice.

It is not enough for me to simply acknowledge her efforts, although that’s all that she asks for. It is imperative, as a co-leader in this marriage, to thank her for her efforts. Dinner for two, weekend away, or a simple thank-you note is all it takes to let that special person in your life know that you recognize and appreciate everything they do for you.

And don’t be scared to go to town on some greasy dishes, fold some laundry, and spray the dog down with the hose.

MARRIAGE, LIKE LEADERSHIP, IS A DECISION

It takes far more than love to keep a marriage alive and well. In fact, love is the easiest part of the entire thing. Relationships get tangled quickly when we fail to recognize that change is a large, non-moveable variable that is always in the equation. And with change, comes the decision to stay committed.

We don’t live life in a vacuum – every year, every day, every moment is unique and varying degrees of different from what we have experienced in the past. It takes a potent combination of wisdom and resiliency to continue to thrive with one another.

To assume a leadership role, it is imperative we make the conscious decision to give your partner, staff, or team the attention they need to feel the love. Take deliberate and direct action to have their best interests at the forefront of your frontal lobe. This purposefully translates into making every decision with them in mind.

Assuming a leadership role in a marriage is tall order. However, in ten months of being legally bound to someone, I have learned that it will take every ounce of effort to allow both people in a relationship to thrive and accomplish everything they want to in life. I sometimes come up short, but every day is a new day to be better by making her better.

Tim Paul is the founder of LeadershipStrikeGroup.com. A Lieutenant in the US Navy and a 2010 Naval Academy graduate, he has been training and performing as an operational leader for more than ten years. He currently lives and serves as the nuclear engineering officer recruiter in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Christie, who is an aspiring cookbook author.

The Work Life Balance Myth

A Guest Post by Shawn Lovejoy

Family and work can’t be balanced. The good news is that it’s not supposed to be. You heard me. It’s not in the Bible. Not one time in Scripture, are you and I encouraged to live “balanced” lives.

You know why? For one reason: life CAN’T be balanced! If it could be balanced, Jesus would’ve at least gotten it done, right? Does it surprise you to know that Jesus didn’t balance family and work well?

Rather, Jesus saw His priorities to family and work as equal “rhythms” that demanded ALL of His attention at a given point, rather than two competing loyalties that must be balanced at a given point. Here are some examples:

• When Jesus was 12 years old, He disappeared from his mom and dad and went to the Temple. When His mother found him and chastised Him, what did He say? “I must be about my Father’s business.” In other words, “Mom, right now, the most important thing I could be doing is learning to do what God has called me to do.”

• Jesus also didn’t have the typical mantra: “God first; family second; and work third.” I don’t know where we got that idea, but it wasn’t from the Bible. Jesus didn’t live this way. Jesus’ family was NOT ALWAYS more important than His ministry. Three Gospels record the true story that tells of a day in Jesus’ life when He is teaching great crowds and his mother and brothers show up and ask him to come home and be with them: “As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to talk with him. Someone told Jesus, “’Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.’” Matthew 12:46-47 (NLT). Upon hearing this request, Jesus refuses to even come to the door! Why? Because He was in the middle of His work!

• If Jesus would have valued family over work or ministry, He never would have died on the cross! Think about it.
Don’t get me wrong: Jesus highly valued relationships!

Here are some examples:

• Jesus picked 12 friends to do His ministry WITH. And He was closer to three of them more than anyone else.

• While on the cross, Jesus was very concerned with the welfare of his mother and his best friend John: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27 (NIV).

• Jesus passionately loved people! So much so that He died for us!

Jesus wasn’t balanced. He lived life in rhythm. When He was supposed to be working, He gave it His all: His very life! When He was supposed to be doing life with God or people, He was fully present physically, emotionally, and mentally. No one has ever been more passionate about people than Jesus. However, He didn’t just live at the whims of people, even his own family!

So what do we learn from Jesus? Wherever you are, be there. When you’re at work, be at work. Don’t be on Facebook. Don’t be on the phone every hour with your family. Be a good steward of your job! That honors God.

When you’re at home, be there! NOT on the phone; NOT on the laptop; NOT on Facebook; Be WITH your family! Be fully present: physically AND mentally! THAT honors God! THAT’S following the way of Jesus! Life in Rhythm!

Does that set you free?

Balance says that we should give equal energy and attention to everything at the same time. However, not only is this idea not possible…it’s not Biblical! Take the Biblical idea of Sabbath. The very word Sabbath means: “to stop or cease” something. God wants us to work 6 days! Work is not a curse! It doesn’t deserve our 2nd best. It’s not a sin to go to bed exhausted every day!

However, every 7th day, God COMMANDED us to rest (in the same list of commands He COMMANDED us not to murder). Every 7th day should be an opportunity to STOP our normal routine and replenish ourselves physically and spiritually! This might challenge you, but think about this: This means that you are NOT supposed to “keep all the plates spinning”! God says to stop spinning them and let them all fall every week! I love that!

The greatest challenge is that most of us agree with the idea of Sabbath and believe it to be a good thing, we just don’t know how to get there! How do we work the idea of Sabbath into our life rhythms?

Here are some ways that we can build Sabbaths into our lives:

• Take your day off. Simple. Do you trust God enough to do life according to His pattern? The answer is either YES or NO.

• Do all your “honey-do” lists, and house-catch-up tasks on Saturdays. Go ahead and work hard around the house of you need to. The Biblical idea is just to have ONE DAY that we stop EVERYTHING.

• Honor the LORD on the Sabbath. Go to church. Worship Him. Serve Him. Give to Him. God knows what’s best for us. God refreshes us through His people, His worship, and His Word. Be faithful to church! Stop making excuses!

• Take your vacation time. All of it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t answer your cell phone. That’s what voicemail is for. Set up your voicemail to say: “I’m on vacation. I need the rest from work, so I will only be returning phone calls this week that have the word ‘emergency’ in them.”

• Tell your kids they can do 1-2 seasonal sports. That’s it. Train them to rest. Train them to do 1-2 things, rather than allowing them to try to do everything!

• Have some YOU and GOD time. Find the quietest part of your day EVERY DAY and BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. Take some time to read God’s Word and pray! No, you won’t get quite as much done if you stop for 30 minutes and do nothing. But, you’ll be reminded again that YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING DONE!

How do YOU rest? What are the steps YOU need to take to rest? Which of these are the toughest for you?

Shawn Lovejoy is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com a coaching ministry for leaders. He loves coaching leaders through what keeps them awake at night. CourageToLead employs multiple coaches all over the U.S to work one-on-one with leaders and ministries. Shawn’s new book for leaders: Be Mean About The Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, released in April 2016. Shawn lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife Tricia, and their three kids Hannah, Madison, and Paul.

22 Things Learned in 42 Years of Ministry

From a Mentor Dennis Newkirk

I saw this on one of my mentor’s Facebook wall and felt it might be helpful to some of my ministry friends, so I asked his permission to share it. These are random thoughts about his time in ministry. They may not be equal for everyone, but I think many will resonate. 

As my pastor, Dr. Dennis Newkirk was the first pastor to speak into my life as a young adult and encourage me to be a leader for the Kingdom of God. I had been leading for several years already in the secular and business world, but never in the church. He was only my pastor a few years, but they were impactful years. I doubt I would be where I am today without his influence.

Dennis is retiring from his church this Sunday, but he is’t retiring from his calling. He is beginning a new ministry ministering to pastors. You can find him at Facebook.com/NewkirkMinistries

Dennis posted:

For those of you in the vocational ministry, let me offer some reflections on 42 years of ministry. For the rest of you friends, you may be a little interested, I don’t know.

1. All good has been done by God and has not been my doing (Isa 26:12).
2. My family must come second only to Christ.
3. My wife’s job is harder than mine.
4. My children experienced things that they shouldn’t have because of my job.
5. Preachers must always focus on prayer and study.
6. A pastor’s personal spiritual disciplines and the pursuit of Christ is vital.
7. Criticism cannot be avoided. It will always be part of the calling. Some of it is valid.
8. The example we set is as important as what we say.
9. God is faithful all the time, even when we don’t think so.
10. Disagreement is not disloyalty.
11. Satan is always looking for an opportunity.
12. Success has little to do with numbers and everything to do with faithfulness.
13. Ask God for vision, share the vision, give the vision away to those who see it.
15. Pastoring is a marathon.
16. Never give up on people.
17. God’s timing is never our timing, and His is always perfect.
18. Don’t talk or make important decisions when angry or hurt.
19. All church fights are terrible but some are necessary.
20. Pastoring is a lonely assignment.
21. Don’t talk or make important decisions when angry or hurt. (He must have felt this one was worth repeating. Wisdom.)
22. Members will love you and care for you if you give them a chance.

A Key Component of Easter – Post-Easter Evaluation

Don't Miss It!

Easter is one of a few times a year churches have a unique opportunity to reach people who do not normally attend their church. Most churches spend weeks and – hopefully – months planning for the weekend.

In addition to the normal celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, I love the energy that Easter brings to a church. This energy, if channeled correctly, can fuel a church beyond one weekend per year.

The problem I see with many churches, however, is they stop the work put into Easter services a few days too early. Many churches close the church doors on Easter Sunday, “high-five and give God the glory” celebrate all God did and take a much deserved rest. Nothing wrong with any of this, but if we aren’t careful we leave some of the best work of Easter’s momentum undone.

One of the most important parts of effective Easter services -which help them to last beyond one day – is to spend time evaluating after Easter Sunday.  Make sure you evaluate all areas, from the planning, to the launch, to the publicity, to the recruitment of volunteers, to the actual weekend – and all things in between.

And, while you could do this anytime, as soon as you can evaluate after Easter services the better. We like to do it the week following Easter services. (In fact, I like to start making notes immediately after the services. I tend to forget if I wait to long.)

Most of the time we will meet on Tuesday after Easter to evaluate. Sometimes we are too tired to think on Monday and Wednesday is further removed.

Some of the questions we should be asking:

  • What worked? Where did we hit home runs?
  • What didn’t work? What did we miss?
  • Did our times of services work?
  • How should we adjust our times? Are there places to add services or services we no longer need to do?
  • What was a first-time visitor experience like? Could it be improved?
  • What follow-up with visitors do we need to do now? (This should be planned in advance, but now you review your plan.)
  • What changes would we make next year in things we offered those who attended? (Could be programs for age-graded ministries, special brochures, better maps of the church, etc.)
  • What did we do, which seemed to have the greatest impact?
  • What did we do, which took a lot of work, but seemed to have little or no impact?
  • What groups of people did God bring to the church? (Many times, you’ll see patterns – lots of single moms, young couples, young professionals, etc.)
  • What cool stories did we hear?
  • Are there any random ideas of things we could do to improve the Easter celebration next year?

Don’t close the books on this year’s Easter services until you evaluate.This time next year, you will forget the answers to many of these questions.  This should be one of the best brainstorming sessions you do all year. (If you are a single-staff church or smaller staff, bring key volunteers into this discussion. This is just as important – if not more – in the smaller church.)

Ask the questions, record the answers, then use them to make your church better all year and save that information to improve even more next Easter.

Also, and equally important, you need someone who is good at record-keeping and will be organized to remind you of these things next year. If only the “big picture” people participate you may never seen any improvements implemented. (In transparency, this means I need people not like me. I have great ideas, but I’m not an implementer. Big picture people need to complement themselves with detail people.)

How does your church evaluate Easter services?

7 Ways to Be a Community Building Pastor

I have a theory of pastoring successfully today.

To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.

I admit “must” is a strong word – and there are few things I’m emphatic about unless they are Biblical, but I do believe in order for us to reach people today we have to get outside the walls of our church buildings. And, this means we MUST do something intentional to make it happen. The community has to know – and believe – we really do care for them.

For me, being a community builder makes sense and seems effective in pastoring a church today.

Jeremiah 29:7 greatly impacting my philosophy of ministry years ago. The people were in captivity. The government was not favorable to God. Yet, how did God command His people to respond?

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

The community’s success is tied to ours. We have the hope for the world as our central teaching. The Gospel is not to be a hidden truth, but the light in the city on the highest hill. This means we must take our light into the world. And, the best way to do this is to be actively trying to make our commnities a better place to life.

So a fair question is how? How can a pastor – or ministry leader – be a community builder?

I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions.

Here are 7 ways to be a community-minded pastor:

Know key leaders

I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible. You may not be able to know the mayor of your city, depending on the city’s size, but could you know your local council representative? Could you know a school board member? You’ll be surprised how receptive many politicians are when constituents contact them – especially a leader who has an audience with a significant number of people. (And, if your church has a dozen people or more you have more influence than you think.)

Let me be clear, I never endorse candidates in my official capacity, but I do vote and it’s amazing when you’re active in the community how many people in your church want to know who you support.

Listen to concerns

Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community – whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop – listen to hear the things people are talking about around you. If you hear repeated themes you can almost guess that’s an issue on people’s minds. And, if you aren’t hearing anything simply ask. Actually, ask anyway. And, don’t hear for what you want to do or where your church is already serving. Listen with an open mind to the real concerns of people. You may have different answers than they’ve thought of before. You know how to organize people. You represent people you can organize. That’s a powerful combination when addressing community needs.

Love what they love

I’ll get disagreement to this one, but I think it’s one of the more effective ways to be a community builder. I’m specifically talking about loving the culture of the city. I’ve seen pastors bash their community online. That’s foolish in my opinion. You can talk against community concerns in a way to rally support for a cause without bashing the community.

People often feel about where they live – especially if they grew up there – the way they feel about their family. They can say bad things about them, but you better not.

And, here’s where I’ll get the most disagreement – to me, this also includes loving the traditions they love – including their local sports teams. I was visiting a church recently and the pastor joked about the local college team. He referred to the fans as “sinners”. The crowd gave a rousing disapproval – and they laughed. It was funny. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how much more effective he could have been endearing people to his leadership if he was “on their side” rather than always blatantly rooting for an opponent. It must be genuine of course, and I’m not suggesting you drop loyalties to other teams, but ask what cause are you more loyal to supporting and how supporting it will be most effective.

I’m in the heart of the University of Kentucky Big Blue tradition. I get criticized repeatedly by my Tennessee fans as a “traitor”, but I’m telling you people like me better – and listen more – when I’m wearing Kentucky blue. God has called me to reach people in this community and I’ve discovered they love when I’m learning and embracing their unique culture and exploring and enjoying the uniqueness which is Kentucky.

When I was in a military town, the more knowledge and support I could demonstrate about military service the more our soldiers and their families seemed to endear themselves to my leadership. And, don’t misunderstand, it is absolutely genuine for me. I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister – and part of this – as I would do for any family member – is learning to love the things they love.

Learn the community

One of the best things I did when I moved to Lexington two years ago is go through the Leadership Lexington program. The following year I went through Leadership Central Kentucky. I quickly learned things I might never have known about the community. It’s amazing now how I can answer questions about things we offer in the community that people can’t answer who have lived here for years. Most communities have something like this. Often they are found connected somehow to the local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent.

You can also sign up for any local tours that the community offers. If the town is too small for anything like this, make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community. Go prepared with questions and pick their brains about the community.

Cheryl and I volunteer at the city’s visitor center. We are doing this to give back, but also to get even more familiar with the city and what it has to offer.

Build your community network

You never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, there will always be people you may not know but people in your network will know them. I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community.

And, this is in all sectors of the community. Don’t limit your network to those society considers influential. I recently had one homeless person tell me of another homeless person I needed to know, because he is an influence in that segment of the community.

I am continually asked to participate in events in the community, because I’ve gained the connections and the credibility to be invited.

Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church

I think this is critical in community building, but also simply the right thing to do. As pastors, we expect people from the community to serve in the church. It’s only fair for us to give back to the community that is giving to us.

Plus, we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also. It’s the best way to meet people who need the hope that we have to share.

I serve on several local boards – both secular and in other Christian organizations. Obviously we all have only so much time, but I have discovered these commitments are gold when it comes to gaining influence in the community.

Lead your church to be community builders

This begins with a general desire to see the people of the church investing in the community. But it won’t happen by accident. It takes the intentionality of teaching and serving by example. And, most of all it takes consistency.

This isn’t something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle – getting the church into the community – being community builders – so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.

As our community prospers, so will we, and, eventually, so will the Gospel.

What other suggestions do you have to be a community builder?

5 Really Bad Reasons to Plant a Church

I love church planters. When I moved into church revitalization part of the concern I had in doing so was I might not have a foot into church planting. That would be tough for me. After two successful plants and having worked with literally hundreds of planters, I think it’s in my blood. (Interestingly, I learned a few years after my first plant that my mom served on the core of a church plant during her years before marriage. It’s truly in my blood.)

Thankfully, I still have lots of avenues to be a part of church planting from an established church. We are a lead church in the planting of churches in Chicago through the North American Mission Board. We have several planters who still connect closely with our church. I’m still involved with Exponential – the largest church planting conference. And, planters still ask for my help on a regular basis.

But, for years I’ve been concerned about one thing I see in the church planting movement. And, I am simply being transparent here.

I seem to find some planters – or want-to-be planters – who are in it for the wrong reasons. The fact is we need people called to ministry in the established church. We need them in church revitalization. Not everyone needs to be a church planter. 

But, the bigger issue is without the right reasons, if we are not careful, a church plant could become just a part of a growing fad and no ultimate good will come from it. People will waste valuable time, energy and resources when they simply were never called to plant. And, that’s not good for the planter or the Kingdom.

So, we must be careful to plant for the right reason. And, more importantly, not the wrong reasons.

Let me give some examples of wrong reasons. There are surely others. 

Here are 5 bad reasons to plant a church:

You’re running from authority.

I’ve worked with some people who didn’t want to follow the rules. In fact, I am that person sometimes. While this may be a good mindset for an entrepreneurial type, and church planters certainly are, it is not a good reason to start a church. When this is the reason – just offering this as a heart-check – it is often out of pride and arrogance. God can never honor that. 

You’ll have authority in a church plant – or at least you should. One of the quickest ways to burnout and flame out is to refuse it. If you’re smart you’ll give away authority and not be a power-broker. All of us need some authority and accountability in our lives.
You want to do things your way.

I understand. Really. Especially if you worked for a controlling leader or for someone who had no passion or vision. You have energy and momentum around a dream and need to explore it. I get it. Bravo! I applaud seeking after something which grabs your heart. 

But be careful. Sometimes a desire birthed in good can quickly become something birthed in rebellion. And, when this happens, many times you close yourself to ideas other than your own. You then become the controlling leader you resented. And, you will limit the vision you are seeking to you. You limit what you control. Make sure you’re not planting just so you can exclusively do things YOUR way. 

You want to be close to momma.

Or momma-in-law. This one sometimes hits too close to home. And, I get it too. You love your family. There is free babysitting. Loving a family is a good thing. 

 But our callings are bigger – and stronger – than the comfort of home – or the cool city where we can find the best coffee shops. Sometimes God gives us huge latitude in location. 

Certainly we need planters all over the place. And, home may be exactly where God wants you to plant. God may allow you to plant exactly where you “want” to plant. I hope He does. 

Sometimes, however, God’s plan sends us where we don’t necessarily want to go. Sometimes He calls us to leave our comfort zone. But, make sure in whatever you do the decision is always His – and not yours alone. 

Your buddy is doing it.

It’s popular to plant a church these days. As I said, I still attend church planting conferences. There are actually lots these days. And, that’s a good thing. We need lots of new churches. Tons. And, church planting attracts a lot of people. 

Some of your friends may be desiring to plant a church too. It seems to be the buzz these days. 

It’s just never a good reason to plant a church because everyone else is doing it. It needs to be your calling – not anyone else’s.

You’ve got the cool factor.

I meet some really cool people planting churches. I needed to clarify this because I was almost 40 when I planted my first church and I had long passed the day I could wear skinny jeans. 

Church plants – anything new – attracts cool. (It’s funny, when I attend church planting conferences there are lots of similar looks. Styles change but church planters keep up with the styles.) 

But, cool does not make a good church planter. It doesn’t hurt – I should be honest – but it isn’t a reason to plant a church. And the fact is we need cool people in the established church also. Church revitalization needs cool too – perhaps even more.

So why plant a church?

There is really only one reason to plant a church.

You are fully convinced God has called you to plant a church.