Cyber Threats to Churches: What Would Your Church Do?

This is a guest post by my friend Lincoln Kaffenberger.
Lincoln was a member of our church plant, served as a military officer, and now works as an information technology professional in the financial sector. He has over a decade of experience helping organizations understand the threats they face and make informed, risk based decisions.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. -1 Peter 4:12

Cyber-attacks are already a common part of daily life for businesses. Unfortunately, they are becoming a common part of life for churches too. Many churches are unprepared for common cyber-attacks that businesses regularly experience. Too often church leaders simply consider cybersecurity an IT issue without considering the organization-wide impacts a successful cyber-attack could have on their church’s ability to function, its reputation, and its congregation. Times have changed. Cybersecurity is now an organizational issue that pastors and other church leaders must care about.

There have been several examples in the past few years of churches that have been victims of cyber-attacks. Churches have lost the money in their bank accounts, had their congregants’ and staffs’ identities stolen, have had their websites defaced and brought down, have had sensitive information put at risk of being exposed, and have been victims of an increasingly common type of cyber-attack – ransomware. Any one of these events can hurt the trust a church has with its people and community and hinder its ministry to those outside the church.

One way churches can improve their security in a meaningful, cost-effective way is to do tabletop exercises working through plausible cyber-attack scenarios. Churches should consider both the most likely and the most dangerous cyber threat scenarios to understand what the impacts of each could be. By working through these scenarios in a low stress environment before a cyber-attack happens, church leadership can rehearse their response plans, identify gaps in their plans, and ultimately improve their security. Additionally, table top exercises serve as educational events for those in a church who are not as familiar with cybersecurity.

Some questions church leaders should ask when they think of different cyber-attack scenarios are:

  • Could this scenario happen to us? What conditions would have to exist for this scenario to be feasible?
  • If this scenario happened, what would the impact be to our reputation and credibility? How would we rebuild our reputation and trust with our congregation and community?
  • How would we respond? Who would we turn to for help? Who could we call?
  • How could this attack have been prevented? Could we detect this attack at its early stages?

There are five possible cyber threat scenarios that have affected churches recently:
1. Cybercriminals empty the church’s bank account;
2. Hackers deface the church’s website with politically charged images;
3. The Church is a victim of a ransomware attack that denies the church access to their files;
4. Pastor’s accounts get hacked and the hackers publicly release sensitive information;
5. Church Staff and Congregants Identities Stolen After Church Database Breached.

These scenarios each represent a kind of attack or a kind of harm that a cyber-attack could bring to a church. If church leadership walk through these five scenarios and answer the questions as an organization, they will discover their level of exposure to cyber risk, better understand what the holes are in their cybersecurity, be better positioned to respond to a cybersecurity incident, and importantly be ready to adopt and create a culture of security within the church that allows it to do the Lord’s work securely.

Resources and Recommendations

In addition to conducting tabletop exercises with these threat scenarios, the following are other resources that can help improve your church’s cybersecurity. First, every leader should start by securing themselves by following the “Cybersecurity Basics for Individuals.” Next, leaders should ensure their churches are following “Cybersecurity Recommendations for Organizations.” These will not provide perfect security, but they are a good start to a more cyber secure online ministry.

Cybersecurity Basics for Individuals:

“UPDATE Protocol” from Marc Goodman’s “Future Crimes”:
a. Update frequently all operating systems, firmware, apps – everything
b. Passwords should be unique, long, strong, stored securely (e.g. password manager), and use multi-factor authentication
c. Download programs and files only from trusted sites; be wary of “free software”; enable “white-listing” settings on Windows or Mac so only approved programs run; pay attention to app ‘permissions’
d. Admin login has the highest permissions and shouldn’t be used to do normal activities like surfing the internet; have a separate ‘user’ account for checking email and surfing the web
e. Turn-off your devices (or at least their internet connection) when not in use, which reduces the opportunity for criminal attacks by 1/3rd
f. Encrypt your data while on your devices using Bitlocker and Filevault programs to encrypt hard disk on your Windows and Mac respectively. Encrypt your data while in transit using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Cybersecurity Recommendations for Organizations:

● Identify and protect your most important digital assets – your cyber crown jewels

● Establish policies and procedures for your church’s information security – here is an example

● Have a cyber incident response plan – Create an incident response plan if one does not already exist: NIST’s 800-61 is a good resource to begin with – https://www.nist.gov/publications/computer-security-incident-handling-guide

● Follow cybersecurity best practices by implementing the Center for Internet Security’s Top 20 Critical Security Controls. Many times, doing the basics of security such as properly configuring devices, requiring everyone to follow secure practices, and reducing exposure will require very little money but pay huge dividends. Other security measures such as malware protection may be discounted for churches. In some cases, churches can receive donated or discounted security technology – http://www.techsoup.org/bitdefender

The One Trait Every Leader MUST Possess

I’ve meditated quite a bit on this question: What is a leader’s most important trait? Is it charisma? Is it intelligence? Is it wisdom? Is it people skills?

Well, while I believe there are many traits and qualities a great leader must possess, there’s one that stands out among all others. In fact, the longer I think about it, I quickly realize that most every trait builds on this one trait!

A leader’s most important trait is DISCIPLINE.

Discipline allows me to:

Block out distractions
• Manage emotions and impulses
• Overcome bad habits and addictions
• Prioritize
• Manage myself and others
• Lead by example

Whether it’s leading, praying, fitness, reading, writing, studying, preparing, speaking, scheduling, calendaring, or managing relationships or priorities…discipline is needed!

OK, Shawn, I’m convinced. I need more discipline in my life. How can I become more disciplined?”

How do we get it?

1. Start with one area of discipline.

Don’t try to get better at everything overnight. Start with becoming more disciplined in your fitness, or your reading, or your studying, or your __________. Just become more disciplined in one area! Here’s why that’s important:

One area of discipline tends to flow over into another area.

2. Plan your calendar.

Spend some time each week and a few moments each day planning and reviewing your calendar. Block out chunks of time to allocate to your priorities and don’t allow anything to get in the way.

If we don’t plan our day, our day will plan us.

Be unavailable and inaccessible sometimes. We can’t be available to everyone all the time. We can be available to everyone, just not all the time!

3. Say NO to the GOOD and YES to the BEST.

Learn to say “No.” Go to the mirror right now. Look in that mirror and say “No, I’m not going to be able to do that.” There. You needed to stretch that muscle. Keep stretching it!

Don’t just focus on trying NOT to do something. Focus on saying YES to something better!

4. Ask God for it.

Self-control is a FRUIT of THE SPIRIT (Gal 5:22-23). Ask God to fill you anew with His Holy Spirit and help you lead yourself. Start praying for self-control. Ask God to help you order your days in a way that honors Him!

When it becomes a spiritual enterprise for us, it becomes more urgent to us.

Is this a trait that you possess? If it’s not yet a strength for you, what’s one step you can take this week to get better at discipline?

This is a guest post. By my friend Shawn Lovejoy. Shawn 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 book: 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.

7 Ways We Put a Not Welcome Sign on Our Church

I was running once and saw this sign and the first word that popped in my head was “Closed”. Anything which seems exclusive to the people already on the inside makes me as an outsider seem unwelcome. I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. It’s probably a very welcoming church. I also know there are circumstances which make some churches have to limit their parking. Again, probably not the intent, but the sign seemed so harsh to me as someone unfamiliar with the church.

As I continued running I kept thinking about that sign and implications for those who saw it. It then brought to mind signs I’ve seen in store windows – which I don’t completely understand. The signs say, “Closed for Business”. How can you be closed “for” business? Seems more like you’d be closed “from” business. If you’re closed you’re closed.

Of course, none of us would intentionally place a “Closed for Business” sign on our church doors. But, it was a great way to jar my thoughts about some practices churches occasionally have, which, intentional or not, serve essentially the same purpose.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church. I’ve spoken at and consulted with a lot of churches in all types and sizes.

From personal experience – here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.

Only do “church” on Sunday.

When we make no effort to build community with people who visit we let people know by our actions – or lack of actions – that we are comfortable with the people in the church now. And, there is little room for new friendships. (This could include not reaching out to people we haven’t seen in a while.) Not long ago, while out of town, Cheryl and I visited a church, filled out a visitor card, and only placed our email and phone number on the card. Months later we have yet to hear from anyone.

Don’t act like you’re happy to see people.

Have no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors. And, don’t talk to people you don’t know if people actually make it inside the building. I once was the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to us. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

Confuse people.

Display confusing signage or, better yet, none at all. And, don’t think about using people as guest hosts. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker – as an introvert especially – I might have left. (Just being honest.) I have to be honest even more and say that could have somewhat been said of the church where I am pastor now. After years of add-on projects it can be a very confusing building. Hopefully we are continuing to make strides towards overcoming that with signage and people.

Make it uncomfortable for visitors.

If you really want a closed sign up, everyone should talk to the only people they know. It’s either that, or you could make visitors feel very conspicuous. Have them stand up maybe – or raise their hands – and keep them up until an usher comes by. We once attended a church which made visitors stand up, introduce themselves, and tell why they came that day. Talk about awkward. Again, that’s extreme, but it certainly caused me to review how we make visitors feel welcome – and don’t.

Have your own language.

Use acronyms – for everything. When we pretend everyone already knows what we are talking about – don’t differentiate between VBS and Vacation Bible School – we make outsiders feel left out of the conversation. (Even with the name of it can be confusing as to what it really is without some description being given.) Another thing which is very anti-welcome is to use personal names during the announcements no one knows but the regulars. (“We’ll meet at Sally’s for the ice cream social. See Joe if you want more information.”)

Have closed groups within the church.

And, don’t start any new ones. It could be any group – Bible studies, service groups, but when any small group has been together more than a few years – with no new people entering the group – it’s a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children’s. They feel very left out when personal conversation begins.

Beat people up without giving them hope.

And, for this one I had to go all theological on you. But, when we are clearer about how bad people are than how great the Gospel is we can make outsiders – who may not yet be living the life we would suggest for them – like they don’t belong and have no chance of getting there. We should teach on sin – and not just certain sins, but all sin, including what I call the 3 G’s – gossip, gluttony and greed. But my goal is to always let people leave with the hope of the Gospel. It’s actually the only hope we all have.

Those are a few of my observations. Again, none of us would purposively place a “Closed for Business” sign on our churches – so we must be careful we haven’t done so by our unintentional actions.

Defining Healthy in Church Leadership Culture

I remember talking with a young hurting pastor just after he resigned from his church. For several years he had attempted to restore a dying church into a healthy church. The church brought him in with some definite goals they wanted him to achieve. They knew their very existence depended on change. He felt he had almost a mandate.

The church began to grow. Things were exciting – or so it seemed. But, with every change there was growing resistance. Eventually only a few people with power still supported him. Even those who once supported him refused to back him with changes they had previously agreed were needed.

He was continually reminded this was not “his church”. He felt it was best he leave rather than divide the church. (This church has a long history of short-term pastorates.)

In the course of the conversation he asked some sobering and honest questions.

He asked, “Is there really such a thing as a healthy church? Are there any healthy church staffs? And, what does healthy even mean in church leadership?”

Great questions. And, after working with dozens of churches, I understand why he would ask them. Sadly, I hear from pastors continually asking similar questions. There are many unhealthy environments in churches.

But, yes! There is such a thing as a healthy church staff and leadership culture. There are some healthy church environments – whether a single pastor and all volunteers or multiple staff members. Large church or small there are healthy cultures. They may not jump in the air every day with enthusiasm, as the picture with this post indicates, but people do enjoy being a part of the team.

In the purest form, the case could be made the church is always “healthy”, because it represents Christ. We are promised nothing will ever destroy what Christ has established.

But, local churches are made of people. And, some of those people, even well-meaning as they may be sometimes, work together to form unhealthy environments. Others work together for the common good of honoring Christ and form healthy environments. I’ve seen and been a part of both.

I’m often asked questions such as this – on how we know when something is healthy. This is always subjective, but I have certainly learned you know when something is unhealthy. I don’t know if I can define healthy in a single definition, but I’ve given the issue some thought as it relates to the working environment.

A healthy church culture doesn’t mean…

  • There aren’t bad days.
  • There won’t ever be tension or stress.
  • That everyone always agrees.
  • There aren’t relationship struggles.
  • All problems are solved.
  • The pastor is always right.
  • Problems or issues are ignored.

Work is still work and people are still people. Being healthy doesn’t not mean there aren’t real struggles at times.

A healthy church culture does mean…

  • People can disagree and still be friends.
  • Tension is used to make relationships stronger.
  • Meetings are productive and purposeful – not burdensome and certainly not hurtful.
  • Rules add healthy boundaries – empowering creativity rather than stifling or controlling.
  • You work as a team to find solutions.
  • The pastor, staff (and their families) are never attacked publicly or continually stabbed in the back.
  • The rumor mill is never allowed to form the dominant opinion.

Those are just a few of my observations.

Have you been in an unhealthy church or organizational environment? Have you been in a healthy one? What would you add to either of my lists of observations?

An Elementary Approach to Facing Conflict

I’ve seen a lot of conflict in my life. From parents and couples in my office for counseling to employment situations where two people can’t get along. I’ve even seen a fight in the grocery store because someone thought someone else cut line. And, I’ve been to more than one church business meeting gone bad.

As an observer, I’ve learned a few things about facing conflict. Primarily, I’ve observed the way one person responds often determines the way the other person responds. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

When you are backed into a corner and facing potential conflict you have a choice. You can come out fighting or you can be smart, plan your response, and help turn the situation for good.

In fact, the secrets of facing the fire of conflict should be elementary.

Here are 3 elementary approaches to conflict:

Stop

Stop and think. What is the best approach? What do you really want to accomplish? Based on your time to reflect – how should you respond?

The opening moments are always critical in any conflict. You can quickly back someone or yourself into a corner. Cornered people move into a self-protection mode, fail to react rationally, and the sense of what’s best is lost.

It requires practice, but take adequate time to plan the best way to approach the other party. It may require you being silent when your prone to speak, but this one step often avoids much of the unnecessary and unproductive conflict. (As an example, Jesus took time to make a whip before driving the money changers out of the temple. John 2)

Drop

Drop the right to win. That’s hard, but if you want the conflict to be resolved you have to start with the attitude that you want the best resolution – even if you don’t get everything you want in the outcome.

When you come into a potential fiery situation with a have-to-win attitude you cloud your ability to work for the best results. Self-centeredness always gets in the way of healthy conflict. Be humble and agree you are going to do what is best, even if that means you don’t get your way.

This doesn’t mean you give in to the other party, but the goal in conflict should not be to win personally, but to reach the best solution for everyone.

Roll

Roll out the best approach. Use the appropriate strategy, skills and temperament to resolve the conflict. This means you hold your temper, watch your words, and value the other person’s viewpoint.

I realize it takes two or more people to make this happen, but when one party is willing to do the first two it makes accomplishing the best so much more likely.

Go into every potential conflict with a humble desire for the best solution to be accomplished.

Stop, drop and roll.

One Hard Truth of Leadership

There is one truth about leadership every leader must understand, but is difficult to receive by some leaders.

The probability is good you won’t like this truth either.

Not everyone will agree with you – or even like you – if you are a leader.

That’s hard, isn’t it? All of us – at a certain level – like to be liked. We want people to agree with us. We prefer cheers to jeers. No one enjoys being the bad guy. (Unless you’re really the bad guy.)

The truth, however, is if you lead anything, someone will disagree with your decisions and you will divide people into different opinions. There will be supporters and detractors.

(Keep in mind, there has never been a president of the United States – or any country – with 100% approval ratings.)

Leading is hard, because it takes people into the unknown. Leadership challenges status quo. It stretches people and organizations. It brings change and change is always attached to an emotion.

Leaders must be prepared to lead towards the vision of the organization, even when it means losing approval ratings.

The only way to avoid this truth is to never lead.

Here is a strong word I would say to those who want to lead. And, I say this in sincere honesty and an attempt at humility. I don’t say it to dissuade you from leading, but simply to help you discern whether you should or not.

If you are someone who needs people to agree with you or who relishes popularity more than your desire to make hard decisions and do the right thing for the organization, then I suggest you choose something other than leadership in which to invest your energies. A friend of mine says you should sell ice cream if this is the case.

And, if God calls you to be leader. Lead strong – and lead well.

7 Classic New Leader Mistakes

I’ve worked with a lot of new leaders over the years. Even more so – I’ve been one. Numerous times throughout my more than 35 years leadership career I’ve been the new guy. (And, learned lots of lessons the hard way.)

Navigating those early days in a new leadership role is critically important. Much of our future success as leaders is determined by how well we start. It is more difficult to regain momentum for our leadership if it is lost or never begins early.

So experienced leaders know they must start well to end (or continue) well.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a lot of pastors who are attempting church revitalization. Some of these experiences have helped shape this post. I really want to speak to the new or “about to begin” leader. If you’re in an existing leadership role there may be something here for you too, but I’m really addressing the earliest days of leadership.

To do so, I want to share some of the more common mistakes I’ve seen new leaders make recently. Again, most I’m referring to our pastors attempting church revitalization. I’m certain many of these would be true when attempting to newly lead any group of people.

Here are 7 classic new leader mistakes:

Assuming people trust you before they really do. New leaders often gain a window of approval. Everyone appears nice to the new person. People will appear excited to have a new leader on board – or at least pretend they are until they learn whether they really are or not. Either way, people in the early days can often make a new leader feel very loved and very popular. While this is indeed a blessing, the leader must understand trust is not the same thing as popularity. Trust is almost never granted simply by arrival or by position. It must be earned over time and experience.

Bashing the past while attempting to get to the future. When you make fun or speak badly of days gone by you often alienate people who were there before you arrived. When you talk about the mistakes of the past – even if they are obvious – you are often talking about the people you are now trying to lead. They may not have even made some of the mistakes themselves, but they were there when they were made. They remained through them and when you diminish the past you’re diminishing them or their loyalty. Don’t forget the past – good or bad – is a part of their personal story.

Assuming nothing good was done before you got there. In reality there were probably lots of good things done in the past. It’s arrogant to think otherwise. They may not be experiencing their best days now – and, that’s probably part of the reason you are there – but, you’ll be better off to help people rediscover some things which were done well than to ignore any good that ever happened before.

Having the “they need me” complex. When the new leader arrives pretending to have all the answers alienates any other good ideas from being shared. People either aren’t motivated to help or they don’t feel they have permission.

Ignoring unwritten rules. Every organization – including the church – has some rules in place which never make it to a piece of paper. They are in the core DNA and are often more powerful that upon which has been formally agreed. They involve things such as how things are done, how people interact with one another, and reaction to change. (These rules can be changed over time, but not as easily if they aren’t understood – even followed – in the process.)

Not understanding the real power structure. Before you can ever effectively implement change you have to learn the people who are actually in a positions of power. It’s not always the people with titles. There are people of influence that – when they speak – people listen.

Not testing the waters before making major change. Seasoned leaders know there must be “meetings before the meeting”. You must find the pulse for change before you spend any capital for change you have. Don’t assume everyone is on board just because it’s a great idea (in your mind) and people like you.

If I could summarize all of these in one word I’d likely say humility captures most of them. A new leader will have to make hard decisions, will often have to defy the way things have always been done, and will need to lead people into unknown, better realities than today. All of that is a part of leading. But, the way a new leader approaches these will likely determine how successful the leader remains – after, the honeymoon period ends.

(And, maybe the subject of another post, but honeymoon periods, in my observation, aren’t lasting as long as they used to last.)

Wanting to be Led vs. Wanting to be a Leader

Discerning the difference in leading others

I have studied some psychological theory on personality differences and types. I’m certified to administer Myers-Briggs, but have worked with most of the more popular assessments. I generally agree with the theory behind these type tools. We can categorize certain personalities and traits together to help us understand ourselves and each other better. I am an introvert, for example. That’s not really a question for me anymore, now that I understand the term. It helps me know how I relate to other people on a regular bases.

At the same time, I hold loosely to all these types – believing that ultimately every human is uniquely designed by their Creator. No assessment can ever fully capture who we are as individuals.

But, I think understanding differences – and the broad categoration of them – has often been helpful to me in leading people. As much as I want to individualize my leadership based on the people I’m attempting to lead, it does help to have some broad ways to understand people.

Which brings me to a very broad difference in leading people.

There is a huge difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

Huge. It requires a different approach.

The person who wants to be led desires structure. They want to follow the rules. They need someone to tell them how to do what you want done. He or she needs more specifics and more details – and less ambiguities. They tend to stress more during times of uncertainty, but they tend to be more compliant and cause less conflict when the path ahead is clearly defined.

You need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

The person who wants to be a leader needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They need to be given a target of what a win looks like and then left alone to script the way to success. They continually need new challenges. They get bored easily. These people may stir conflict on a team – intentionally or not – because they enjoy testing and pushing the boundaries.

And, you need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

Again, these are generalizations, but there is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. I have also found some people have seasons in their life where they float between preferring one or the other. And, of course, with any of these categorations there are huge variances within each of them. Again, everyone is unique.

The key is to know your team and the people you lead. The more we know the people we lead the better they are able to follow.

7 Actions Which Cripple Leaders

I’m constantly thinking how I can help people on our team improve as leaders. Of course, in order for that to happen it means I must constantly be improving as a leader. I realize our team’s potential to get better at leading others is limited to the extent I am willing to become a better leader.

I’ve learned along the way to being a better leader that there are some things which simply keep leaders from being effective. I used the word “cripple” in the title and I don’t think that is too strong a word. The things I’m going to list have all crippled me during seasons of my leadership. There are some actions or characteristics which can simply derail a leader’s potential for success if not identified and addressed.

Understanding these and disciplining ourselves to avoid them can make us better leaders.

Here are 7 actions which can cripple a leader:

Trying to personally handle too much.

Too many changes at one time. Too much on your plate. Refusing to delegate. You can only do so much and when you try to do more you almost always lose efficiency and effectiveness.

I realized this as our church plant was growing quickly. I was trying to meet with people, be active in the community, lead our staff and organizational structure and still preach effectively on Sunday. Something had to give. I started giving some things away and it was amazing how much better my messages became on Sunday – and how much more effective I was in my other responsibilities.

Refusing to rest.

Resting isn’t just a nice quote on a 10 commandments plaque. It’s a command for a reason. Our bodies and minds need time to rejuvenate and recover. Burnout is almost always a result of leaders who fail to say no or are never still.

I have had more than one hard learning curve in this area. Thankfully, I’ve matured and now I can say the more stressful the season the more I discipline myself to exercise and get away from the office. In the busier than normal season I don’t have to work harder, but smarter.

Allowing critics voices to dominate.

You will always have critics. And, you shouldn’t ignore learning from them – even when you don’t agree with them. As leaders, we must remain humble and teachable. But, this doesn’t mean we allow the dominant voice to be those who aren’t even supportive of leadership or where we are leading. In my experience, most of the time there are some people that are critics regardless of who is leader.

I’ll never forget the time this one lady continued to blast me about the “satanic” music our church sang. It wasn’t satanic at all. In fact, we were careful with our lyrics on every song we used in our worship services. The problem was it wasn’t her style. For a while I let this haunt me every Sunday. I was paranoid what others might be saying. But, then I realized there were lots of people who were better engaging in worship because of our style. Plus, there were plenty of other churches which might have more closely aligned with her preference. I couldn’t allow her preference to control what was leading a couple thousand other people in worship every week.

Ignoring the hard decisions.

Leadership isn’t needed if we simply manage status quo. Leadership takes people to unknown places. This requires change – and change can be uncomfortable. Let me correct that – change is always uncomfortable – to someone. In my experience, leadership is often crippled until someone is willing to make the hard decisions. As leaders we must not lead to be popular, but to do right things to achieve the worthy, pre-established visions of our organization.

This has been true so many times as we have had to change or stop programming in an established church. I’ve learned “we’ve always done it this way” is rarely true. When a church is over 100 years old there’s nearly nothing done the same way it was when the church started. They’ve simply done it that way long enough to be comfortable. But, part of our success has been the willingness to move forward – strategically and cautiously – with needed improvements towards our vision. This has included hard decisions involving programming, but even harder decisions regarding people. (And, the people decisions are always the hardest – but, sometimes the ones most needed.)

Controlling everything.

When the leader has to know everything happening in the organization or when they are paranoid because they don’t, we know there is crippled leadership somewhere – either with the leader or those being led. Most leaders don’t want to be surprised on major things, but when they have to be intimately involved in every decision and every detail it usually indicates they don’t trust their team. That’s crippling to any leader – and the team.

I’ve always been pretty good at delegating. It may have come when we bought a small manufacturing company and I was completely in over my head as a leader. I quickly realized if I was going to have any success I had to release control and trust other people – often people more qualified in areas than me. That learning experience has surely helped me as a pastor.

Impatience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, neither are healthy organizations. Leaders must learn to have patience and perseverance, even when those on the team are growing weary. Many times we quit just before the turnaround.

I have sat with so many pastors – especially attempting revitalization – who were short-term at their churches – not because the work was finished, but because they were not patient with how long the process of change was taking. The best leadership happens over seasons and years – not over days and weeks.

Developing a sense of entitlement.

The leader who ever feels they’ve “arrived”, stops learning, or begins to take all the credit for success in the organization has become a very crippled leader. The team will no longer support the leader fully. They will trip on their own ego. It’s simply the quickest way to failure.

I could spend a whole blog post – and probably should – on how I have personally witnessed egos lead to moral, spiritual and professional failure. Chances are, however, you have witnessed this plenty of times also. Pride always goes before the fall.

Those are a few actions or attitudes which I have seen cripple good leadership. It’s always sad to me to see a good leader fail. My prayer is this could be a check for any leaders who may be struggling in any of these areas.

7 Thoughts to the Families of Introverts

Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.

I usually am addressing introversion in leadership, but in talking with a young pastor after one of these posts I discovered there was another issue we needed to address. This particular pastor was having some issues at home with introversion. He had managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he got home, he had nothing left to give. He felt the tension. He wanted to push through it, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t want to talk about his day. He didn’t want to share what he was thinking. He was done. Words spent. Empty.

His wife was growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and simply feeling left out of part of his life.

Of course, I only heard his side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Her side of the story (according to him) – she doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted – even when it’s with his family.

I get it. I really do.

So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.

Here are 7 words to families of introverts:

We aren’t crazy.

Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time – even when we are with people – you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do – as you possibly do – we are all desperately in need of grace. But introversion isn’t one of the things which make us crazy. We aren’t weird – okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention. We may appear extroverted in public, often because it’s our job, but there are lots of us who are really introverted.

It isn’t personal. 

When we don’t not talk because we don’t want to communicate with someone. We don’t talk because we are introverted. We need to have something to say. We probably think a lot more than we say. It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.

We do love you.

This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts – that I know some have a hard time believing – is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know – for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)

We need time to recharge.

The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion and the degree of introversion we have. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)

Preparation helps.

If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others – not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves this time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it – actually looking forward to it – and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.

We don’t have a right to ignore you.

Do I need to repeat that one? I will. We don’t have a right to ignore you. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality – and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation – at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.

Activity often produces conversation.

This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking with Cheryl helps us communicate better. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So, we walk often. Almost daily. It’s good for our health and our marriage. Certainly we walk enough so she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member which might produce more (and better) conversation? (Play a board game, go hiking, take a drive, etc.)

Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. It’s important not to put people into boxes – and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling – and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?