8 Questions about Church Revitalization

I was interviewed by someone who is considering church revitalization for his next ministry assignment. My answers are not formalized – it was a casual conversation, but I figured someone else might have the same questions.

After experience in church planting and church revitalization, let me say neither should be attempted without some ability to laugh – at times – other than pray of course – that’s all you can do. And, so here’s another smiley face to brighten your day.

8 questions about church revitalization:

1. What motivated you to move into revitalization vs church planting?

It’s a calling. I wouldn’t attempt church planting or church revitalization – or any ministry for that matter – without a clear one. But, the need is huge. We have more Kingdom dollars invested in non-productive, non-growing churches than in church plants. Obviously we need lots of church plants, but we also need to revive some of the older churches.

2. What questions did you specifically ask your current church before taking the position?

Here’s the bottom line: There’s not a question that will answer everything you want to know. You’ll have to take a risk. Just like in church planting and you don’t know if anyone will show up. In church revitalization, you’re going to find things out when you get there.

You are dealing with a very complex structure. The older the church the more complex. The search committee can tell you lots of things — all that they believe to be true — and still some of it won’t be true. It won’t be that they misled you, but that the culture hadn’t been fully tested until you arrived and tried to change some things that haven’t been tried previously. That’s part of the process.

But, a key I wanted to understand the best I could was my freedom to lead. Obviously, Jesus is the leader, but did they want to rely on my leadership as I yielded to God’s leadership? Was the church ready? Could I hire my staff — and release staff if needed? How are decisions made? I looked at the budget and bylaws and every policy I could find. (And, they found more after I arrived, but the policies you won’t know are the unwritten ones.)

3. If you could change anything about your transition into your current role as Senior Pastor of a historically established church what would it be and why?

I would have asked for some of the harder decisions to have already been done. Specifically dealing with structure and staffing.

4. How did you prepare your family for your role change?

It was just my wife and me. That’s a huge difference, but I read everything I could about the church. I asked lots of questions. I interviewed the staff. I asked for list of key leaders and interviewed them. Then I shared everything I was learning with my wife. We were very open and transparent throughout the process.

But, it’s important to know that while my wife is faster to move by faith – she has the gift of faith – she’s slower to let her heart change. She can know it’s what we are supposed to do, but her heart stays longer where we once lived. She hangs on to the past harder than I do. Navigating through that and giving her time to acclimate was huge.

5. What are the biggest mistakes to avoid in your first year as the Senior Pastor in an existing church that needs the work of revitalization?

  • Moving too fast to change major things.
  • Not bringing people along and establishing trust.
  • Not celebrating the past.
  • Standing still too long. (People need some quick wins.)

6. What leadership areas did you focus on first once you arrived in your new role?

Primarily staff structure, strategy verbiage, website, communication and vision-casting.

We also had 7 key initiatives: Prayer, Stewardship, Intergenerational ministry, College, Discipleship, First Impressions and Missions.

7. What books or resources would you recommend for a Senior Pastor who is moving into the work of revitalizing a local church?

For my people who can’t assume the unmentioned, let me say the Bible. Of course. And, honestly, that’s huge. People want and need sound, clear, Biblical teachings. That will revive a church.

Here are a few books I found helpful. And, there are probably many others.

Switch – Chip and Dan Heath
Steering through Chaos – Scott Wilson
Change Your Church for Good – Brad Powell

8. What one thing would you want to tell me about the work of revitalizing the local church that I have not already asked?

Be ready to embrace conflict, love people and love the vision of a healthy church. Each love will be tested.

What questions do you have? Any of these I should expand upon?

7 Things the Church Can’t Do for the Pastor

Pastor, there are some things your church can’t do for you.

They simply can’t.

Please understand. I love the church. Greatly. I’m a local church guy. But, they simply can’t do these things for you.

And, if you think they can, or you leave it up to them to do these things, you’ll someday find out the hard way — they can’t.

I’ve watched it many times as pastors didn’t do these. They followed the demands of the church and somehow expected the church to be providing these needs. It caused a void.

Some pastors have even crashed and burned waiting for someone else to do for them what only they could do.

Granted, you may have the greatest church of your ministry career, but regardless of how wonderful the church is they can’t do all the things for you that your soul, personal life and ministry demands.

You’ll have to do them yourself – by God’s grace – if they’re going to be done.

Here are 7 things your church can’t adequately do for the pastor:

Hold you accountable. The church can’t guard your heart and character. It doesn’t matter how many rules or committees they have, if you want to ruin your life, you’ll find a way around the structure.

Love your family and protect your time with them. They may love your family. They may respect your time with them, but if you really want to protect your family – you’ll have to take the lead role here.

Understand the demands on your time. They can’t. And, you’ll only be disappointed if you expect them to. All jokes aside, they know you work more than Sunday, but they don’t know all the pressure placed upon your role. They can’t understand anymore than you can understand what it’s like to sit at their desk, or operate that machine they operate, or drive that police car or teach that classroom. We only know what we know and we can’t fully understand what another person’s experience is until we experience it.

Ensure you discipline your Sabbath time. You can teach it – they can know it, but if they need you they aren’t going to necessarily understand that you’re on a Sabbath. If you’re going to rest — if you’re going to have a Biblically commanded Sabbath – you’ll have to discipline yourselves to take it.

Read your mind. People are usually waiting to be led. They are looking for a vision to follow. They can’t follow an unspoken vision.

Build your sense of self-worth. If you’re waiting to hear how wonderful the message was, what a good job you’re doing, or how much the church loves you in order to feel you’re doing a good job — you’re going to be very disappointed most of the time. You’ll have to find your sense of self-worth in your relationship with God and living out His purpose for your life – the same place you’re hopefully encouraging the church to find their sense of self-worth.

Completely discern your call from God. Some may be used of God to speak into your life, but your personal calling is between you and God. They won’t always understand when you’re “called away” or when you feel “led” to lead in a certain direction. And, you can’t expect them to.

Don’t expect others to do for you what only you, by God’s grace, can do.

8 Killers of Motivation — and Ultimately Killers of Momentum

Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

But, here’s the greater reason.

Momentum is often a product of motivation.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and – ultimately – momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like — especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation – and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover – at least for all team members.

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

Recently I was asked to speak to a local youth leadership program on — well, it makes sense — leadership. That’s what they are 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’ve 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. Systematize your learning. 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’s 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’s what you are doing. They’ll assume you’re 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. 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 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’ll 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’re the elder in the relationship.

Great leaders have great courage.

The fact is, if you’re a leader, you’ll 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’ll many times feel under-appreciated. This is so huge — especially for your generation. You’ve been accustomed to rewards for achievement. Life isn’t 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, then 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’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll 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. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s 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’s not usually built-in to the system. No one makes you rest.

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 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’ve learned it’s life-essential.

Our bodies are designed, I believe created, to need rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re 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’ve become realities.

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

10 Reasons to Consider Church Revitalization — Even Over Church Planting

I meet with young church planters frequently. I hope that continues. We had great experiences in two successful church plants and it’s certainly in my heart. Currently we are working to plant churches in Chicago. I love the energy of planting. We need lots of new churches.

In this season of my life, God has called me into revitalization. We are positioning an older, established church, that was once in decline, to grow again. And, it’s been amazing – and challenging – and rewarding – and hard.

God began to encourage my heart towards revitalization when I considered my home church – the one where I served in lay leadership until I was called into ministry late in my 30’s. That church introduced me to Christ, help me grow, and I wouldn’t be in ministry today without them.

But, that church has seen better days. (Thankfully, they are in revitalization now and a friend of mine pastors there.) What will become of the established church? That was a burning question on my heart and God lined my heart up with a church in need of revitalization.

Now, after the experience of the last few years, when I meet with church planters, I often encourage them to consider church revitalization. I realize church revitalization doesn’t have all the attraction of church planting. I left behind my skinny jeans to enter church revitalization. And all God’s people said amen. But, here’s the thing: the attraction in church revitalization is in the mission. And, that’s hopefully the same reason anyone enters church planting.

Here are 10 reasons to consider church revitalization – even over church planting:

You love the thought of restoring history. Our church is over 100 years old. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that history come to an end – if we can reverse the decline?

You are ready to go to work now. There are far more opportunities in church revitalization. I read that near 90% of established churches are in decline or plateaued. There’s work to be done immediately.

You like having an established base of financial support. The good thing about many established churches is that they have loyal supporters. Sometimes those are the ones holding out until the doors are closed – they never want to change, but many times those people are just waiting for leadership to take them somewhere better than where they are today.

You love inter-generational ministry. In an established church, if you start to reach younger people, you’ll see a blending of generations. That’s a beautiful experience. It’s been one of our favorites in ministry. And, personally, I think it’s healthy and a very Biblical model of church.

You like a challenge. I didn’t put this as my number one, but don’t be misled. You will face opposition if you try to change things from where people are comfortable. You don’t face that same challenge in a church plant. But, you didn’t get into ministry expecting it to be easy did you? You agreed to walk by faith, right? And, you’ll have that opportunity in church revitalization. Everyday.

You won’t run from every conflict. You mustn’t. You must stay the good course. The mission is too vital.

You enjoy healthy structure. Granted, it might not be healthy, but you’ll find structure. And, as long as you’re not doing away with structure completely, which isn’t healthy anyway – you can usually tweak structure to be healthy again.

You are Kingdom-minded. You see the bigger picture. There are more Kingdom dollars being under-utilized in stagnant churches than may ever be invested in church planting. What are we going to do about it? If you’d like to know the answer – maybe you’re a candidate for revitalization.

You can endure a long-term approach. It likely won’t happen immediately. In church planting, we could change in a weekend. That’s not necessarily true in the established church. There are many things that can happen immediately. Certainly we saw some immediate, very positive changes and the church began to grow quickly. But, the best changes have taken time, but they have paid off dramatically because of our more methodical approach.

You truly love the local church. I didn’t love everything about the church I came to pastor – or the established church I attended all my life until surrendering to ministry. But, I truly love the local church. Enough that I’d be willing to invest energies in trying to save one.

Let me be honest. Some churches can’t be – and may not need to be – saved. There, I said that. They’ve been toxic since they began running off pastors so a few families can remain in control. They aren’t interested in reaching a lost world. They are looking for a comfortable place to hang out with people just like them.

But, there are so many churches who are ready to grow again with the right pastoral leadership. And, I encourage some of our young, eager, pastors – even some who may be considering church planting – to consider allowing God to use you in revitalizing an established church.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul – and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened – I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

7 of the Most Dangerous Church Cultures I’ve Observed

I was talking with a couple of pastors about leading in church revitalization and growth. Both of these pastors are seasoned church leaders – having far more experience in total than I have in vocational ministry.

Mostly I listened to their stories. Both are currently in difficult pastorates. One of them serves in a church that has a history of very short-term pastorates. The other is in a church that has seen a roller coaster trend in church attendance – every time they get in a season of growth its followed by a season of decline – sometimes rapid decline.

Frankly, I prefer to have conversations about opportunities and possibilities than about challenges and frustrations. But, get a few pastors in the room and there will be some war stories. Leading towards health in a church can be a battle sometimes.

Just like it’s been said numerous times – leading people is easy if it wasn’t for the people.

I tried to encourage them in their call and offered a few suggestions for them in their current situations. But, the conversation stayed on my mind for days afterwards.

A few days after this conversation, I was talking with another pastor friend reflecting on what I had heard in the previous conversation. I didn’t share names or specific situations, but it led us to a discussion about church cultures.

Every church has its own culture.

Both of the pastors in the original conversation just seemed to find themselves in some very bad church cultures.

I’ve seen lots of different cultures while consulting and working with churches for over a decade.

Regardless of what some believe – there are some healthy churches.

And, there are some who are not so healthy.

It’s always breaks my heart to encounter a church that is ready to implode. Frankly, some churches live in that tension continually. Some cultures are dangerous – toxic even.

Why do some churches seem to have such a hard time keeping church staff for any significant length of time? It usually has something to do with the culture of the church.

Why are some churches more resistant to change than others? It will almost always reflect back to the culture of the church.

Why do some churches have a history of church splits? Culture.

This friend in the second conversation said to me, “There’s a blog post for you. You need to talk about some of those dangerous cultures.”

Sadly, according to numerous statistics, more churches are in decline or have plateaued than are growing. Certainly not all growing churches are healthy. I would never define a “healthy” church exclusively as growing church. I do believe, however, most healthy churches will eventually grow.

Some of that health in a church depends on the culture of the church. How do people respond to church leadership? How do they respond to each other? How do they react to change? How are decisions made? What upsets people most? What is the atmosphere — the mood — of the church during the week and on Sunday? How does the church treat vocational staff?

All those are usually relative to and indicative of church culture.

So, I decided to post about some of the more dangerous church cultures I have observed. Most likely you’ll have some of your own to share.

Here are 7 of the most dangerous church cultures:

Selfish – Some churches are filled with people who just think they have to have it their way. And they fold her hands – and sometimes hold their money – until they get it.

Prideful – This is a culture that is proud of their heritage – which is a good thing – but is resting on their laurels. They refuse to realize it’s no longer the “good ole days”. Their pride keeps in the past keeps them from embracing the future. They resist any ideas that are different from the way things have always been done.

Rigid – A rigid culture would never kill something – even if it isn’t working. These churches do tradition well. They don’t do change well. Try to change – and it’ll be the death of you.

Cliquish – I’ve heard this from so many people who felt they just couldn’t break into the already established groups within the church. In this culture, it takes years for people to feel included, find a place of service, or begin to lose the “new person” label.

Bullying – Sometimes this is disguised and called church discipline, but in some of the stories I’ve heard I would tend to call it legalistic. If it’s a “one strike you’re out” culture or people are made to feel they can’t be real about their struggles for fear of retribution – the picture of grace that Christ died on the cross to provide is diminished. People are encouraged to put on masks to hide their struggles.

Stingy – In this culture, there is a greater concern that the balance sheet look attractive than meeting the needs that God brings their way. This church rarely walks by faith because that seems too irresponsible.

Depraved – This one may in some ways be a summary of the previous six — because there is sin in all of these cultures — but I wanted to expose it on it’s own. If the Bible is left in the rack attached to the pew and no longer the foundation guide for the church – the culture will obviously suffer. Church culture can begin to decay whenever the focus is more on things like money, programs, buildings, even worship style – as good as all of those can be – rather than on living our lives as children of God for the glory of God. Whatever distracts us from the very core of the church – our Gospel mission and calling – will injure our church culture.

Those are from my observations. And, I think we must be aware of them if we want to lead our churches to health.

What dangerous cultures have you seen?

I should mention again, especially to those outside the church, those who have experienced pain from these type churches, or those entering into the ministry. There are healthy churches. There are healthy church cultures. There are no perfect churches, but there are some who have staff with long tenures, where change is manageable and where people truly live out the Biblical model of church.

Please don’t read this as a slam against the church. As someone who loves the local church, I hope to lend help through this blog in the majority of posts I share. In other posts I try to expand on thoughts and experience I have in helping to change church cultures.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, has consistently encouraged me over the years I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers – maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Reasons People Who Could Be Leading Aren’t

We need leaders. When Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” I’m confident some of those workers should be leaders of other workers. Throughout the Scriptures God used men and women to lead others to accomplish great things – all to His glory.

But, I’m equally convinced, just as there are not enough people working who should be working – some of the workers who should be leading are not leading.

Why?

7 reasons people are not leading who could be:

They weren’t ever willing to face their fears.

Fear failure, fear of rejection, and the fear of the unknown are very real fears. But, fear is an emotion – not necessarily based on truth. Faith is a substance based on a certain – though unseen reality.

They never had the self-confidence to allow people to follow.

I know so many people who sit on the sidelines, even though people believe in them, but they just don’t believe in themselves.

They felt it was self-serving to step into the role of leadership.

One of my new favorite sayings is “Don’t trip over your own humility by refusing to do the right thing.” Yes, leaders can be in the center of attention, and some people are too “humble” to step into that role, but in the meantime, we are missing your leadership.

They waited for someone else to do it.

They had a call – or, at least, they knew what needed to be done, and they could have taken the initiative and made it work, but they never did. Maybe they are hoping and waiting for someone else to make the move.

They tried once – it didn’t work – and they gave up too soon.

Failure is a part of leadership. Certainly it is a part of maturing as a leader. If you give up after the first try you miss out on some of the best leadership development available.

They couldn’t find their place, they didn’t make one, and no one made it for them.

Find something to lead! The world is full of problems. Choose one you are passionate about and start leading. We need you! And, if you see someone with leadership abilities – make the ask! Plug them into leadership.

They thought they didn’t know how to lead.

I’ve been a student of leadership for over 20 years – in leadership positions for over 30 years – and my answer to that one is simple. Who does know how to lead? Sure, there are skills to be acquired, leadership is an art to be shaped, but leadership is new every morning, because there world is ever changing. Leadership involves people. When we can completely figure them out – we can completely figure out leadership. Until then watch, listen, read, learn, ask questions. Leaders are all around you. You can learn some skills of leadership if you are teachable. The best leaders are still learning how to lead.

Are any of these the reason you’re not currently leading, but you know you should be?