5 Ways To Deal With Insecurity as a Pastor

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This post developed after talking with a young pastor overwhelmed with the responsibility he’s been given. It was his first church out of seminary. His church expects a lot from him – leading the church, preaching great messages, visiting the sick (and the well), managing a budget, and seeing the baptistry consistently in use – just to name a few things.

He realizes the weight of his position, but much of it he doesn’t feel qualified to deliver. Seminary didn’t give him the training he needed. He accepted the position knowing there would be challenges and knew he would have to walk by faith, which he wanted to do – but now he’s wondering if he’s in over his head.

I realized he was dealing with a huge dose of insecurity. I previously wrote “7 Traits of an Insecure Leader“.

It caused me to ask myself, so I could coach him:

What’s the best way to deal with insecurity in leadership?

Here are 5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons

Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.

And that goes for the church also. All the things that are working in another church may not work in yours. They might. And there might be principles that will work. Be open to learning from others. Of course you should want the church to grow. But your church is a unique body of believers.

Concentrate on your abilities

What are you good at doing? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. This is where people who know you well can probably help. They see things in you that you can’t see or haven’t realized.

In times of feeling insecure we often forget who we are and how God has shaped us through experiences of life. We would never tell a church member they aren’t gifted – why would we believe this about ourself? Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on your positives than your negatives.

Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses

Part of having a healthy church or organization is the strength, which comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And it’s the more Biblical model of the church.)

By the way, I’ve learned over the years that some of the best leaders in the church aren’t volunteering. They have to be recruited. And sometimes you have to recruit them from outside the church. If you need someone to help with marketing, for example, don’t be afraid to find someone in the community and ask them if they are looking for a place to volunteer.

Keep learning

Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Attend conferences. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like those of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)

And I realize money is likely tight for these kind of things. Here’s a principle of leadership it might take you a while to learn. Investing in what’s next is hard when you’re small, but always a worthy investment. It fuels you and the church. The reward will come in time. Plus, there are inexpensive ways to develop yourself and your team. I wrote about that HERE and HERE.

Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure

You have a relationship with Christ. Read that sentence one more time. You can do all God calls you to do, because He will equip you for His call. God will strengthen you when you need strength most. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

This is a hard word, because it isn’t quickly implemented. This takes years of walking with God as a pastor and leader. But, if you are facing insecurity in leadership, you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Insecurity will weigh you down and hold you back as a pastor or leader. It will keep you from doing all you were called to do. Don’t let it!

4 Types Of People Who Give Anonymous Criticism

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As a leader for over 30 years, I’ve received my share of criticism. It comes with leadership. If you aren’t receiving criticism — you probably aren’t leading. I’ve also received my share of anonymous criticism. I’ve been a small business owner, elected official, church planter and church revitalizer. So perhaps I’ve received more than my share.

You can read a previous post HERE on how I process anonymous criticism.

I’m one of those rare leaders who doesn’t automatically dismiss criticism because someone doesn’t sign their name. I try to consider if something in my leadership caused this person to feel the need to remain anonymous. (My StrengthFinder indicates I can tend to be controlling — something I have to continually guard against.) I have had people go to the trouble of making up a name and an email address. This was obvious because details are often accurate, but none of the information matches anyone in our database.

I also try to discern if this criticism is from someone who feels the need to remain anonymous. Perhaps something in their past (or present) keeps them from sharing their name. While I would always prefer to talk with the person, I try to reconcile his or her reasoning for withholding a name.

The reality is I believe there are at least four different motivations for a person offering anonymous criticism. I don’t believe this is the right option to take in giving criticism. It doesn’t fit well with my straight-foward personality. But I realize everyone is not like me.

Here are 4 types of anonymous critics:

Fearful – This is the anonymous critic who is simply afraid of conflict; perhaps because they’ve been injured by it previously. It may not be that the person doesn’t like you or the organization or that he or she doesn’t have good suggestions for improvement. This anonymous critic simply can’t bring him or herself to reveal his or her identity, because of fear. (Controlling leadership often develops this type of anonymous criticism.)

Pleaser – This is the anonymous critic who wants everyone to get along, and doesn’t want to create any problems or tension. He or she thinks you need to know something, but would rather not be the one to tell you. They are afraid you won’t like them if they tell you what’s on their heart or mind.

Trouble-maker – This is the anonymous critic who is trying to stir up trouble and knows that throwing the anonymous criticism in the loop causes confusion and concern. These people are disrupters and critics I’d rather avoid reading if I could always discern this was the critic’s intent. (They are my least favorite kind of critics.)

Passive – This is the anonymous critic who has low interest in the organization and would prefer not to be bothered any further. It could be the one who feels intimidated by you or the position. This anonymous critic doesn’t want to be in the middle of the conflict, but thinks you need to know what he or she has to share.

Obviously, as leaders, we would prefer to know who is throwing the punches our way. It’s hard to defend ourselves against an unknown “enemy”. And sometimes that’s how anonymous critics make us feel – like we have an enemy. The fact is, however, you can’t always know which of these types you’re dealing with, but it does help me think through my approach to anonymous criticism when I can discern their motivation.

What’s Your Anonymous Criticism Policy?

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I’m curious what you do with anonymous criticism as a leader.

I never really had an official policy of how I handle anonymous criticism, but I often felt I should establish one.

I realize that growth in any organization and just being in a position of leadership welcomes critics.  The larger the organizations I led grew, the more criticism I received. That’s natural.  A lot of it were unsigned critiques.

Throughout my career I’ve heard people debate what they do when they receive unsigned criticism.

Let me be honest, I don’t appreciate critics who won’t sign their name, but since it’s part of leadership, here’s how I usually react:

  • I listen to it (read the letter, email or comment) and if there is a forum to respond, such as with a blog post, I sometimes do. I try to still respond in love – even though I don’t feel like doing so at times.
  • I try not to figure out who the anonymous commenter is. I have found it is never helpful when I do and often causes me to hold unnecessary grudges.
  • I don’t give it as much weight to the criticism as when I can attach a real person to the criticism. If you want my full attention, sign your name.
  • I try to figure out if there’s a reason someone felt the need to be anonymous. Have I controlled the situation too much?  Have I become unapproachable? Do I stink?  (It’s never bad to consider hard questions about myself.)
  • I dismiss it quicker if I don’t feel it’s valid. Sorry, but Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous, it’s true. (I’m less likely to dismiss criticism quickly if there’s a real person attached.)
  • I try not to be the anonymous critic. If I don’t like to receive it, why dish it out to others?

I don’t think I have all the right answers. This is the just what has worked for me in leadership.

So, I’m curious, how do you respond to anonymous criticism as a leader?

  • Do you read it?
  • Do you ignore it?
  • Do you respond to it?
  • Do you take it personal?

And what should I do differently than what I currently do?

The “Secret” and Hardest Part for Pastors Attempting Church Revitalization

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There is a part of church revitalization we don’t talk about much – if ever. Yet, pastors think about it a lot. 

I know this from personal experience and from talking to literally dozens of pastors attempting church revitalization. 

Although it is a secret, I’m convinced it’s the hardest thing any pastor will face who wants to see a declining established church ever thrive again. 

I hate to pull the cover back on my pastor friends on this one, but often it is not until we admit a problem that we can really focus on some solutions. 

So, here’s the secret, hardest part I’ve observed about church revitalization:

Deciding if you will stay long enough to see a turn. 

That’s it. 

And this can honestly be said about many other changes we make as leaders. You have to decide if you are going to outlast the tension change naturally creates. 

To test my assertion, if you are in the first couple years of leading church revitalization, see if any of these apply: 

  • You wake up some days and don’t know if you can do it anymore. 
  • You and your spouse dream about where you could work – maybe another church; perhaps even in the marketplace.
  • Secretly you search job site boards looking for other positions for which you might qualify or be interested.
  • You wonder if you are alone and if anyone else struggles this way.
  • There are times you wonder if the problem is you – if you’re doing something wrong, if maybe it is a sin to even be thinking as you do some days. 

Any of those sound like your story? 

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of these. Those are raw human emotions. Change is not only hard for the congregation – it’s hard for the one leading it. And some of it may simply be a way to cope and survive. You get little “mini-mind breaks” that keep you going. 

But here’s what I know to be true: Until you decide if you’re going to outlast the critics and weather the storms of change you will likely never realize the success you really came to achieve. 

Of course, there is never an excuse to be arrogant, tyrannical or controlling. I always tried to be humble, but purposeful. God had sent me and the church had called me to do a job. Helping a church revive again requires change. And leading change is hard and the reactions to it are not always pretty. 

The question in church revitalization is not if it is going to be difficult. Someone told me that the longer the church has been in decline the longer it will take to revitalize. I know for sure it takes longer than we often hope it will. The question is if you are going to last through the difficult to get to the potential wonderful. 

And I’m not even suggesting you have to or should. That’s a much more personal matter with many different parameters that depend on your unique circumstances and the church. Some churches can’t be revived. There are no guarantees and no perfect formulas to follow.

I’m simply pointing out something I have learned the hard way. 

In an upcoming post I’ll offer a few suggestions for staying through the hard seasons. In the meantime, I’m saying a prayer for all of you who will read this post and are in the middle of discerning whether to stay or go. 

5 Ways You Can Help In My Ministry Transition

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Today I officially begin working for myself. It’s not the first time I’ve stepped into an unknown (I actually think we are supposed to throughout our life), but it seems a bit more daunting in my mid-fifties. (And I realize I’ve got nothing on Abraham or Moses.) Still, I’m totally excited about the days ahead. 

Follow THIS LINK if you’re just now reading about this season of transition and want to read more of our story. Basically, we felt we had finished our work and were ready for something new. Plus we really want to be closer to family and community again. 

I have to be transparent, this is totally a self-serving post. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a post quite like this one, but I sat on it for several weeks. The fact is I’ve been asked frequently over the last couple months how people can assist me in this new transition Cheryl and I are entering. I love that I have a network of people through this blog, my ministry and our friends who want to support us and don’t take that lightly. 

I greatly appreciate the question, so I thought I’d share a few ideas. 

Here are 5 ways you can help: 

Pray. Timing is critical in all this, especially for the first quarter of 2020. December wasn’t the best time to enter something new. Most of my future “clients” were busy with Christmas preparations during the month and it was not the best time to sell a house. But this is the way the Lord worked in our life and His timing is always perfect. 

We need to sell our house in Dallas, find a place to live in the Nashville area, and I need to book enough work to pay the bills. It’s that simple.

Again, we have done this before and know God will provide. We have already seen incredible evidence of how He is already working. I have a long list of prospective opportunities, but need discernment in processing them. God’s timing is perfect, but we know He responds to the prayers of His people. Thanks in advance for your prayers. 

Engage with me on social media. As I always told our church, the power of social media is huge. It might seem like a little thing, but it’s actually not. In this new season it is going to be even more important that I have an active online presence. You could help me greatly if you would connect with me on LinkedIn, “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Signing up to receive this blog post by email will also help. 

Order my book The Mythical Leader. I have been amazed at the positive feedback I have received from this work. I was so engaged in my job as a pastor when it was released that I didn’t promote it as well as I should have. It would be great to get new traction on it now. And, if you’re so inclined, leave a nice (5 Star) review on Amazon.

I think I have more books in me and selling more of this one would be an encouragement. You can actually find my Amazon page here with a few other resources. I plan to add more soon. 

Hire or refer me. If you are leading in a church or organization and think I can help you, I would love to talk. I have experience in business, government, nonprofits and church – including church revitalization and planting.

I’m best when we are strategic-thinking, brainstorming, and creatively generating new ideas together. That could be helping to develop you and/or your team. I could even add capacity to your team as an “adjunct staff member”. 

You can also refer me to your church or organization. Someone asked, “If you could do anything, what would you do.” I think I would spend more time helping leaders, churches and organizations succeed. I prefer to be onsite when possible so we can use a whiteboard and dream and plan together.

If you know of somewhere I might be able to help, please pass my name along. (You can email me through this blog or contact me through any social media site.)

Send me your ideas. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have taken the time to send a note of encouragement or offer some idea of a way I can help the Kingdom. That’s huge for me. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I shared some ways in the announcement post, and I have a number of others, but I’m confident there are things I’ve simply not considered. 

I told you this was a self-serving post. Thanks for reading and, even more, thanks for being a friend to Cheryl and me during this season of transition. We couldn’t be more excited about the days ahead. God is faithful and we look forward to what He has for us in the days ahead. 

Blessings and Happy New Year,

Ron 

10 Questions for a Pastor’s Spouse to Ask a Prospective Church

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I am frequently asked by pastors to help them process going to another church. They want to make the wisest decision and that involves asking the right questions. I always appreciate when a pastor is diligent in this process.

Although it should certainly be a “call”, I believe God often allows us latitude in discerning where we serve. And one right question may avoid a wrong decision.

I previously post 25 Questions the Prospective Pastor Should Ask the Church.

But what about the spouse? I equally believe they need to be asking questions. In fact, sometimes they can ask the “better” questions.

I gave this advice to a pastor recently and he asked what questions his wife should ask. I decided to share here what I suggested to him.

10 questions a pastor’s spouse can ask a prospective church:

  • What will family time be like for our family? Can I expect it to be protected/honored by the church?
  • Can you give any examples of what the church does to protect my family?
  • What expectations are specifically placed upon me in terms of serving in the church? What is my assumed role in pastoral care?
  • My passion is ________. Will I be able to fulfill this passion here under the current context and structure?
  • What was the role of the last couple of pastor spouses?
  • Within the culture of the church, what is it like in terms of treating the pastor’s spouse? Will I be subjected to criticism? What about church gossip?
  • Does the church encourage me in traveling with my spouse?
  • If I were to ask the last pastor the source of the greatest stress in serving here as pastor what would they say? How would the spouse answer?
  • How many weekends off a year should I expect/plan for our family?
  • If they could have, what was something the church would have changed about the last pastor’s spouse? What did they love? 

Any others you would add?

7 First Impression Lessons from a Church Shopper

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

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

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

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

But Cheryl and I learned a lot. 

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

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

Our experience

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

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

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

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

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

Please understand two things.

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

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

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

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

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

7 First Impression lessons I learned as a church shopper: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcing a Life and Career Transition for Ron and Cheryl Edmondson

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | 13 Comments

A Life Transition for The Edmondsons

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

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

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

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

What’s Next

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

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

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

Consulting

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

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

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

I wrote a post talking more about this HERE.

Adjunct staff member

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

Teaching/Preaching

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

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

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

Online offerings

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

A Walk of Faith

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

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

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

7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Who Want to Grow Churches

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

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

Here are a 7 helpful skills I’ve observed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Seasons of Leadership

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

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

Four seasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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