8 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting Another Church

By | Church, Church Planting | 26 Comments

I have been involved in church planting for most of my ministry career – whether as a planter or as a supporter of planting. I love the process of planting. I love the energy and the enthusiasm a new church brings to a community.

Having planted two churches, I’ve learned a few things. Some of the things I’ve learned are things I wouldn’t do again if were were planting another church.

If you are planting now – or in the future – I hope these are helpful.

Here are 8 things I wouldn’t do again if planting a church:

Limit God’s vision.

In our first plant, we started as a church to reach one section of town. As we grew, God seemed to lead us to a different target geographically. In our second plant, we started in one location, relocated, then ended up in two different locations – in each move reaching entirely different segments of our community. God continued to refine and shape our path as a church. Who we were a few years in was not necessarily who we thought we would be as a church.

Fail to challenge people to grow in their walk with Christ.

I don’t know that we shied away from this – it certainly was our heart and our vision to make disciples, but in the early days, we were very conscious of reaching the lost. I wouldn’t change that either – and I’m still trying. Reflecting back, however, we may not have been as bold as I wish we had been in challenging people to grow. In addition to growing in weekly attendance people need to grow individually. It wasn’t enough to know Jesus – we needed to strive to be like Him – even when it involved change in them and their daily lives.

Shy away from talking about money.

So many people think all a church does is talk about money. We attempted to avoid this stigma from day one. We concentrated more on serving than we did giving. (And both are needed.) In the process, we neglected to develop our core givers those first couple of years, we put ministries on hold we should be pursuing, and we robbed people of the opportunity to become generous givers and consequently to feel the reward of trusting God completely.

Resist leaders from other churches.

We wanted to plant a church for non-believers, but we needed leadership to be successful. When leaders from other churches came, however, we were hesitant to plug them in for fear we would be seen negatively by other churches. In the process, we missed out on quality leadership and we denied people the right to follow their own heart.

Expect everyone to be as committed a few years into the plant.

The fact is, life changes. Some people are starters and some are finishers. Some of the original people will grow bored with things as they are and or they may even disagree with some of the directions the church plant goes. Some will become overwhelmed, tired, or simply feel led elsewhere. They had a great impact in our beginning, but they sought opportunities elsewhere in later years – and it’s okay. Be thankful for the investment they made in the beginning.

Worry about the external critics.

In both plants, it seemed our biggest critics were from other churches in the area. They didn’t agree with our style of worship, our teaching (which we tried to make very Biblical), or even the need for us to exist. I let it bother me too much the first couple years. Then I had a wise planter give me some advice. I still hold on to it today for other applications. He said, “Ron, seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to”. The people we were reaching with the church plant – the hurting, lost, wanderers – were so thankful we had obeyed God to plant. The more I focused on them the greater sense of accomplishment I felt in my obedience to God.

Wait long to reproduce.

We were 5 years old when we launched our second campus. I see churches do this in their second full year. There are so many in our city who need hope. Taking a risk on my own comes easy, but sometimes I’m too careful when representing God – as if He can’t handle something so large. When God leads, I want to move quickly. We saw several opportunities to launch other locations we passed on because we didn’t feel “ready”. I’m not sure we ever would have been.

Delay the need to add structure.

We were a church plant. We were often escaping the structure and traditions which keep so many churches from growing and reaching outsiders. But with growth can quickly come chaos without some carefully planned policies and procedures. You want to add smart structure – and always want to be open to frequent and even constant change, but even church plants need a few systems to guide the organization. And the best way to do this may be to find people to help you do it. With a background in business I was a natural to do this, but I hated the management part of it – so we didn’t do it as well as it could be done. We were running well over 1,000 before we hired someone as an administrator. We should have done this earlier. If a church is 400 or 500 hundred in attendance this becomes a full-time job. If the plant is smaller – recruit part-time help or even volunteers.

Have you ever been part of a church plant? Anything you could share with us?

10 Realities I Would Share with Every Young Leader

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership, Life Plan | 5 Comments

I love working with young leaders. I have to say it’s one of my favorite parts of leading. I have two incredible young leaders as sons. (The picture with this post is with them years ago – taken the day we moved from Tennessee to Kentucky.)

Occasionally, when I am talking to a younger leader something becomes apparent. They often think what they are experiencing is unique. And perhaps more surprising, they think their struggle is no longer mine – like somehow I’ve “outgrown” their struggles as a leader.

After experiencing this numerous times, I was prompted to write a post. These are simply some things you need to understand to be a leader long-term.

Here are 10 realities every young leader needs to know:

At times you will feel overwhelmed.

You know the feeling, right? Like you can’t get it all done and you’re not sure you know where to start. Those feelings don’t ever leave you completely as a leader. There will be seasons where they are stronger than others, but if you’re doing anything of value you will occasionally feel overwhelmed. These times are a part of life – and work. Something you’ll never completely outgrow.

You’ll not always know what to do.

You don’t ever get to a point in life where you’ve learned everything. You get better at some things. Okay, lots of things. Obviously, wisdom and experience has its benefits. But, regardless of your age, if you’re doing anything productive you’ll learn something knew everyday.

Seldom will you be 100% certain.

Whenever you’re making decisions – like the really big decisions of life – you’ll seldom be absolutely, without any reservations, fully convinced it is the absolute best decision. You’ll always have an element of risk in your life. You will be forced to move forward by faith – based on the best information you know at the time (from your own experience and the collective wisdom of others) – then trusting God with what you don’t know.

And this is a good thing. It keeps you grounded and on your knees before God.

Sometimes it’s just for the learning experience.

And this is huge to understand. Perhaps it’s a job you don’t particularly like. Maybe you put all your effort into a project and it doesn’t work – or its not as good as you thought it would be. You might try a new business and the business fails. It’s easy to get frustrated – even to lose hope. But the process will teach you something if you allow it to. And the value of the learning experience may prove to be life-changing for you in years to come. Never miss the life principles intended for you.

You’ll many times feel under-appreciated.

There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. You may be doing great things – trophy-deserving things. It may appear at times like no one noticed or even cares. And this may not be true. They may simply be living a full life like you are – overwhelmed like you are – and they simply didn’t take the time to let you know how much you are appreciated.

Plus, the more you do something well, the more it becomes expected and the less recognition you receive for it. But all this can leave you feeling under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. Like all leaders who last, eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of our work well done as much, if not more, than the public recognition of our work.

People are watching.

If you position yourself to lead in any way, you become a target of spectators. What you do, what you say, and what you post on social media – people are watching. Some will agree. Some will not. Some will agree just to get on your good side, but disappoint them and they will leave. Some will not agree because they are jealous of a leader with an opportunity.

All this said, don’t shy away from people. This never the right response. Just be aware. Be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent. And, while you have people watching, lead them somewhere noble – better than their current reality. This is what great leaders do!

Learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. Don’t make it “my” team or your leadership won’t be very successful and no one will buy-in to the team except you. A leader’s words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Great teams are shaped by leaders who value the input of everyone on the team.

Sometimes, if we believe in something strong enough, we have to be willing to stand alone.

This a hard reality in a world which tries to force sameness and is critical of anyone who doesn’t follow whatever is “in” at the time. But if you do anything of value – or believe anything strongly enough – sometimes you have to stand single until others catch on or until you find supporters. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advisers. You should. You should have mentors and be open to constructive criticism. I never make major decisions without the input from others. But don’t give up what you know to be right – especially those things you sense God is calling you to do – because it isn’t popular. Always be willing to admit when you are wrong. Be very humble – never arrogant or self-serving – but stand with courage when you know in your gut you’re right.

Great things start with humble beginnings.

“Do not despise these small beginnings…” (Zechariah 4:10) Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. This is still a viable option – and the reward feels greater when you build something the hard way. The greatest reward often comes when there has been plenty of sweat, tears, and times of waiting.

And never underestimate the power of a moment. One moment can easily change a life.

You have to discipline yourself to decompress.

It’s not usually built-in to the system. During the busy seasons of life – when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence – which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself – to rest, to re-calibrate, to refocus and to rediscover the passion which once fueled you.

Perhaps to re-connect, if needed, to a deep intimacy with God. You have to discipline for these things. You’ll seldom have a leader above you or a system in place which forces this upon you. And it’s life-essential. Don’t neglect your soul. Never neglect your soul.

These are obviously random, but in my life they’ve become realities. For some of these, if you don’t understand them, you may think something is abnormal about you. Although, I guess another reality I have learned, is there something abnormal about all of us. Enjoy the abnormal part of you also. God makes no mistakes.

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 10 Comments

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

I like to encourage pastors and other leaders to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition.

When I ask the question I often hear a short pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I have even heard something like, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as it did for the pastor/leader. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

Well, consider it from the spouse’s position. (This is always a good practice in any relationship issue.) The pastor/leader who moved to a new opportunity came with their center of gravity and purpose defined. You know what you are going to be doing with your time and energy. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. That takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share about the day. Whether the day is good or bad things are moving, changing, and challenging them daily. So, even on days things aren’t going well they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which basically look the same.

Since a majority of my readers are in vocational ministry, let me say a word to the new pastor. This is just a typical scenario I have heard many times.

You arrive at your new position, come home at the end of the day pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse likely moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times the spouse may have taken a step backward. Or, at least, seems to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition.

7 Things Great Leaders Do: Advice For Today’s Young Leaders

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | One Comment

I was once asked to speak to a local youth leadership program on — well, it makes sense — leadership. That is what they were attempting to learn.

I’ve led in the business world, elected office, and now in ministry and on dozens of non-profit boards. Along the way I have observed a few things about leadership.

And some great leaders have appeared along the way.

I culled together 7 things I’ve observed and shared with the group things I felt they should know.

Here are 7 things great leaders do:

Great leaders never quit learning.

Never. So, if you want to be a great leader – you may need to systematize your learning. For example, you could read one chapter a day that you don’t have to read. Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes. That may sound trivial. It is not. It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed.

Side note: If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that is what you are doing. They will assume you are not paying attention.

Fact is, we gather far more information than we can retain. Get a system to help you keep up with the information that comes your way. I use Evernote and Google Docs. Find what works for you.

As soon as you think you already know what the teacher, professor, or someone older than you is talking about you’ve mentally closed your mind to learning anything new. I’ve got 3 post high school degrees (and working on a doctoral dissertation now) and that’s about enough education to convince me I don’t know everything.

Great leaders never underestimate a connection.

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. You will be surprised how often these relationships will come back around and work for good. Never burn a bridge. Be careful what you place on social media. Those are future connections. And respect your elders. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you are the elder in the relationship.

Great leaders have great courage.

The fact is, if you are a leader, you will not always know what to do. Seldom will you be 100% certain. The best leader is not always the smartest in the room. In fact, the best leaders I know surround themselves with people smarter than them. The best leader isn’t the most outgoing or the most extroverted. I’m perhaps one of the more introverted people in the room, but on Sundays, I appear otherwise.

The best leader is usually the one who is willing to lead others places they aren’t willing to go on their own. The one who has the courage to face the risks of the unknown.

Great leaders are motivated to lead for the good of others – not for personal recognition.

As a leader, you will many times feel under-appreciated. This is so huge — especially for your generation. You have been accustomed to rewards for achievement. Life is not always like that. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things. And people will act – it will seem at times – like no one noticed and no one cares.

And, that may not be true. They may simply not have taken the time to let you know what an impact you had on them. Eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of “I did the right thing” as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

Great leaders learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. If a leader makes it “my” team no one will buy-in to the team except the leader. But is that person really a leader?

Anyone can be a boss. To be a great leader your words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Great leaders know they can’t get there on their own so they become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. They don’t brag on themselves they brag on their team.

The more you include people, the more they will feel included (see how simple this is) and they will be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Be an encourager, invest in others, and people are more likely to follow you.

Great leaders know that success often starts with humble beginnings.

Never underestimate the power of a moment.

All of the best things in life happened in a moment.

  • A wedding proposal.
  • A child is born.
  • A college scholarship award is received in the mail.

We often look for the grandiose occasions, but the seemingly smallest moments can often have the biggest long-term impact. Never be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That is still a viable option – and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way.

Great leaders learn to discipline themselves to decompress.

It is not usually built-in to the system. No one makes you rest.

During the busy seasons of life, when there is plenty of work to do and time is of the essence, which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you will have to discipline yourself.

  • To re-calibrate.
  • Refocus.
  • Rediscover the passion that once fueled you.
  • Re-connect, if needed, to those you love.
  • To meditate, read, play tennis or golf, go for a run.

You have to discipline for that. And, I have learned it is life-essential.

Our bodies are designed, I believe created, to need rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you are stressed with school is to go for a walk. Never neglect your soul. It will protect you and help you sustain for the long-term – and help you finish well.

These are obviously random, but in my life they have become realities. In fact, so has the randomness of life.

Soak up leadership principles. Keep learning from others. Whatever field of work you choose – the world is still in need of great leaders.

7 Ways To Be A Best Friend To A Pastor

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization | 40 Comments

Every pastor I know needs a best friend. Don’t we all?

Most likely the pastor has a best friend in a spouse. I hope so. I encourage it. My wife is that for me. My boys are also.

But I think there’s more. And more these days than ever.

And, if “best” is too strong a word, pick your own word. Good. Close. Trusted. Every pastor needs a friend who knows them well and can encourage and challenge like no one else can.

Yet, in working with pastors as I do regularly, I would say more pastors live paranoid of who they can trust than have someone they would consider a close confidant. Some pastors believe not having one simply comes with the job. I’ve heard pastors say we can’t expect to have those type relationships with people – that we are somehow, for some reason, “above that”.

Balderdash!

That’s dangerous talk. And many pastors have failed buying that lie — or never inviting people into a closer circle of friendship.

I equally know some people who want to be that type friend to the pastor. And the pastor has either been hard to get to know or the person doesn’t know how to relate to them. I appreciate those who have a sincere desire to befriend the pastor – which is the purpose of this post.

I can’t speak for all pastors – but I can speak for me and, I believe, I can speak for many pastors due to my years of coaching and ministering among them. I’ve learned you can have “best” friends in the church, but even if necessary because of the size church, outside the church where one pastors.

If you want to be this kind of friend to a pastor, I need to warn you the pastor may be skeptical at first. Every pastor has been burned a time or two. If your heart, however, is to be a friend – even a best friend – to your pastor here are some suggestions which have worked to endear my friends to me.

Here are 7 ways to be a pastor’s “best” friend:

Let the pastor be true to self. Warts and all – don’t expect more from the pastor than you would anyone else. There is likely a church holding the pastor to a higher standard. And they should. But, as a “best friend”, you know everyone is still a “work in progress” – just like you. Allow your pastor to be human. And their family too!

Don’t make the pastor be the pastor in every situation. Let the pastor be “off” occasionally. Don’t talk “church” all the time. If you’re best friend is a waitress you don’t talk food or customer service all the time, do you? A doctor’s best friend hopefully isn’t always looking for free medical advice. Talk sports. Or politics (that’s hard for most pastors to find a place to do). Or about your family. Talk about life.

(Also – side note, the pastor shouldn’t always have to be the one to pray just because they are in the room. Shoulder some of his burden when you are with them.)

Never talk about the pastor behind their back. Let them know you will always protect them and have their best intentions in mind. Above all have integrity in the relationship – which should be true in every friendship.

Never repeat anything the pastor tells you in private without permission. Never. Ever. Ever. This may be the most important one. It’s amazing how people will repeat what you say if they think you are claiming to be a close friend. As soon as you do, it will be very difficult to trust you again. And isn’t part of being a best friend the confidences you two keep between you?

Love the pastor even when they make mistakes. You’d want that from your best friends wouldn’t you? Why not give pastors one friend they know they can always count on to be in his corner? And that should be even on those days where their emotional state or mindset make them seem not very pastoral – and maybe not even like a best friend.

Support the pastor publicly. You won’t be much of a friend if you don’t challenge them when needed, but it should always be done in private. When in a crowd be on the pastor’s side until you’ve had a chance to talk to the pastor in person – and alone.

Don’t hold the pastor to unreasonable expectations. I’ve seen people who want to be a pastor’s friend get upset when the pastor didn’t tell them everything going on in the church. They get their feelings hurt. Every pastor walks on a certain amount of “eggshells” wondering who will respond and how to things the pastor does. We should never place this burden on a “best” friend. Have no hidden agenda to the relationship – no attempt to gain information or status – just friendship.

Those are a few suggestions, but even with these, don’t be disappointed if the pastor doesn’t respond as you would want them to. Again, best friends don’t. Plus, maybe – hopefully – your pastor has a best friend or two already. All pastors need them.

As I close, I’m thinking these are good suggestions in all friendships – pastor or not. And we all need a best friend.

Pastors, any suggestions you would add? 

Waiting For What’s Next Doesn’t Mean You Do Nothing

By | Business, Church Planting, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Jesus, Life Plan | 15 Comments

Inactivity rarely produces anything…
Waiting on God doesn’t always mean doing nothing…

Jesus said, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4)… He was in a time of waiting…yet He continued to act on what He could do…

Do what you know to do today…
Take initiative towards change you know you should make…

In Joshua 3 they had to get in the water before it started to part…You may have to get in the water first, before you start to see results…

Create action…it is often then God begins to reveal the destination He is taking you towards…

What action do you need to take today?

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5 Common Struggles Among Young Pastors

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

Several years ago, I spent a coupe of hours with a group of young pastors. It was a cross representation of church planters and pastors of established churches. There were healthy churches and unhealthy churches. Churches represented were growing, plateauing and declining. Most of these pastors were new in their positions and I expected to see all these churches would be growing soon. It was a sharp group of people.

We talked about a lot of issues, but one of our longer discussions was when I asked them what their greatest struggle in ministry was at the current time. There were some incredible consistencies – actually more than I anticipated. Very different churches and very different pastors – very similar struggles.

I thought it was worthy of sharing here. A large majority of my readers are pastors. And here is my word to you – you may not be as alone as you think. The title says “young” pastors, and I chose it because this group was, but I suspect these aware shared by pastors of all ages.

Here are the 5 most common struggles among pastors:

Personnel issues.

If the church has any paid staff other than the pastor there will be issues for the pastor. I’m finding this portion of our work more demanding than ever. The longer I lead the more complex this issue becomes, simply because of the changing laws and regulations placed on places of employment – including the church.

I always advise younger leaders, especially those without a background in this issue, to seek professional help in this area – even if it has to be from outside the church.

Navigating bureaucracy.

I think this is a particularly heavy burden on younger pastors. The generation entering the ministry is much like the generation entering the secular workforce. They want to do something, not meet about doing something. I share their heart, but granted this is one of the hardest ones to address. (Of course, the church planters weren’t the ones with this struggle as much.)

I often advise young pastors in established churches to write some of their best sermons around casting vision of how we should spend our time as pastors. Jesus seemed to teach and model quite extensively about our need to reach the lost. The Bible doesn’t record a lot of His time in committee. Acts gives good models of leadership and serving the people. People in the first century seemed to do a lot of the work we’ve placed on professional staff.

Balancing ministry and family time.

This has always been a struggle. And, frankly, it should be. We need to work hard – it’s a good Biblical principle – and we need to protect our family. There’s another great Biblical principle. It requires a healthy art of balancing our time. This younger generation of ministers, however, won’t automatically let the ministry trump their family. And I think that is a good thing. Ministers from my generation and older generations sometimes did. Many from these generations have told me they wish they hadn’t after it was too late.

My advice to the younger pastor was to keep the heart for the right rhythm. I knew they would likely never be fully balanced, but they can be very intentional with their schedule and use of time. They will have to cast vision to the church continually of why they are not at everything and why their family is so important. The church needs this message too – as they are equally in the struggle.

Developing leaders.

This one seemed true regardless of the style of church. And, in my experience, it’s true in most organizations. We are always in need of new leaders. You can’t grow or even maintain without consistently developing new leaders. In a practical sense, leaders come and go, die or burnout. But it’s also difficult to grow and develop as a body without growth in the number of leaders.

I advised them to start systematically and strategically developing new leaders now. In fact, I think it’s more important you have a system – even if it’s not perfect – than to do nothing. People typically learn best by doing. So, at the least, in the absence of a formal leadership development program, start giving people you see with potential assignments to lead – and let them develop with on-the-job training.

Handling critics.

Again, this one was shared less by the church planters, but the interesting twist is the criticism church planters received was typically from outside the church. Pastors in established churches seemed to receive most of their criticism from inside the church. (There’s a whole blog post needed on my thoughts on this one.) But, either way, one thing all leaders have in common is criticism. Lead anything and critics will find you. You don’t have to go looking for them. (I love the passage in Exodus 24 where, as Moses was going to the mountain to spend time with God, he made a plan for how to handle disputes among the people.) Because leadership involves change. And change always changes things. (You got that, right?) People often respond to change with an emotion — it could be anger, frustration or sadness — but it comes to us as what we’ve labeled criticism. I’ve learned sometimes it isn’t as much against the leader as it is against their sense of loss, but either way it hurts.

I always remind young pastors and leaders that we must find our strength in our calling, our purpose and in the pursuit of the vision God has placed in our hearts. We shouldn’t ignore criticism. We should filter it. (And I’ve written on the right and wrong ways to respond to criticism.) But we should not let criticism control us – in our leadership or in our emotional state – even though that is sometimes the intent of the critic. Part of leading is learning how to stay healthy even in the midst of criticism.

I loved my time with this group and repeated it several times.

Let me ask – was anything surprising about the list?

I also wondered if seminaries addressing these issues? Should they?

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 8 Comments

I love organizational leadership. I especially love attempting to lead healthy organizations. I have been in both environments – healthy and non-healthy. I prefer healthy.

If truth be told I’ve probably been the leader in both extremes. And there are seasons when every organization is healthier than others.

Over the years of leading, I’ve observed a few things which can be the enemy of organizational health. They keep health from happening and, if not dealt with, can eventually destroy an organization – even a local church.

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to creating a healthy organization. I’ve known leaders who think they can read a book, attend a conference, or say something persuasive enough so everything turns out wonderful. Organizational health is much more complicated. Success is not earned through a simple, easy-to-follow formula. It takes hard work, diligence and longevity to move things forward in an organization. Leaders must be committed to the process through good times and bad.

Satisfaction – Resting on past success is a disruption to future growth, which ultimately impacts organizational health. When an organization gets too comfortable – boredom, complacency and indifference are common results. The overall vision must be attainable in short wins, but stretching enough to always have something new to achieve.

Selfishness – Organizational health requires a team environment. There’s no place for selfishness in this equation. When everyone is looking out for themselves instead of the interest of the entire organization – and this starts with the leader – the health is quickly in jeopardy.

Sinfulness – This one is added for those who feel every one of my posts must be spiritual. Seriously, healthy organizations are not perfect (and we all sin), but it doesn’t matter if it is gossip or adultery – sin ravages through the integrity of the organization. When moral corruption enters the mix, and is not addressed, the health of an organization will soon suffer. This is why it is so important a leader stays healthy spiritually, relationally and physically.

Sluggishness – Change is an important part of organizational health. In a rapidly changing world, organizations must act quickly to adapt when needed. Some things never change, such as vision and values, but the activities to reach them must be fluid enough to adjust with swiftness and efficiency.

Stubbornness – Let me be clear. There are some things to be stubborn about, again, such as vision and values. When the organization or it’s leaders are stubborn about having things “their way”, however, or resistant to adopt new ways of accomplishing the same vision, the health of the organization will suffer. Most people struggle to follow stubborn leadership, especially when it’s protecting self-interest rather than organizational interests.

Structure – As much as we need structure, and even though we should always be working to add better structure, bad structure can be damaging to organizational health. When people feel they are being controlled by rules, more than empowered by their individuality and passions, progress is minimized and growth stalls. People become frustrated under needless or burdensome structure.

What enemies of organizational health would you add to my list?

After a great day of teaching…A Lesson for Every Pastor and Leader

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership | 8 Comments

After a great day of teaching, Jesus faced the critics.

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

It’s interesting to me when this story occurred in the life of Jesus. If you read just prior to this passage, the disciples had finally understood something Jesus taught them. It seems that didn’t happen much in their journey with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus had just taught them a huge principle. They got it. It was a great day. The best of days. The men He was building into, who would launch the church we know today, understood what was being taught.

That’s a great day for any teacher.

Then suddenly the critics came out of the closet.

(They weren’t really “in the closet”. They never are. They are always watching. Critics are usually the ones waiting in the wings to say, “That won’t work” or “I told you it wouldn’t”. They just appear to sit on the sidelines when things are working, because that fuels nothing they have to say.)

It never seems to fail. I’ve seen it in ministry and marketplace leadership. The best days of life are often followed by some of the darkest days. Monday always follows the weekend. Pastor, deliver your best message and you’ll shortly afterwards find some of your harshest critics. “You should have said it this way.” Deliver the best quarterly sales report and there will be someone who says the business can’t compete in today’s market. Hit an out-of-the-park home run and you’ll find some people ready to stop the ballgame.

Don’t be surprised on those days. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t get distracted from what you are called to do.

Those days can even have value, if you allow them to:

  • They keep us humble.
  • They keep us learning.
  • They keep us on our knees.
  • They keep the glory shining in the rightful place.
  • They keep us appreciative of the good days.

Are you facing the critics – even during the best of days?

Of course you are – you’re trying to be like Jesus, right?

7 False Thoughts of a Pastor or Church Planter

By | Church, Church Planting, Leadership | 11 Comments

Now almost a year after serving as a full-time vocational pastor, I realize how many demands there were on the position. There are pressures from church members, staff, and the community, but most of the stress – as I reflect back, was self-induced on my part.

As I have worked with hundreds of pastors now, I realize there are many false thoughts a pastor can allow to drift in their mind if they aren’t careful.

Here are 7 false thoughts of a pastor and church planter:

If we build it, they will come.

They might. They might not. Actually it is when God builds it that they will come.

We need to pay someone to do this – or – we need outside support. 

You could – and you might, but chances are there are people with margin in their schedule, looking for a place to serve, who don’t necessarily need your money right now, as much as they desire the opportunity.

And the money is often in the mission. Some people have to be made aware of a need before they support it.

People will give when they are ready.

This one is equally true. Because the false belief is that they will. They won’t. Period. You’ll have to encourage people to give. You need to give them a reason to give. Provide them opportunity. Teach them the value of giving.

BTW, that’s called discipleship.

Some of these people will always stay.

Not true. Some people will leave even if you do everything the way they wanted you to do them. And some people have been waiting for an excuse to leave and the change you make will help them make the decision easier.

I need to know everything that’s happening in my church.

You could try, but the church would stay very small and the potential of the church will be very limited. And I like to ask myself what is in me, which makes me feel I need to know or control everything. (It is often pride or selfishness.)

They couldn’t do this without me. 

Yea, that sounds impressive, but it is not true. At all. In fact, the more we think it the less it’s probably true.

I’m responsible for everyone’s spiritual maturity.

You’re not. Your role is to teach. You are to be a model. But God’s spirit grows people as they yield to Him.

Any you would add?