7 Times the Speed of Change Can Be Faster than Normal

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 6 Comments

Change takes time. There are no “quick fixes” in the world of change leadership. And there shouldn’t be. I’ve seen many leaders try to rush change through only to destroy themselves, the organization they are trying to change, or the change they are trying to make.

There are occasions, however, when the speed of change can change.

There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. The leader should be careful to strategically plan each change, but taking advantage of these times can help facilitate change faster.

Here are 7 times the speed of change can be faster than normal:

When there is a new leader 

The honeymoon period can be a benefit. Honestly, from my personal experience, I believe the period is becoming shorter than it may have once been. I don’t know how long this period ultimately lasts – perhaps only a few months or up to a year – but some change seems almost expected in the beginning days of a leadership position.

Disclaimer: This is not usually “major” change. That should still be strategically planned over time, but certainly some changes can be made quickly. Use wisdom here.

When the change needed is imminent

There are times when everyone agrees something must be done. When a needed leader unexpectedly resigns, for example, no one likely questions the change in staffing to hire someone new. When everyone agrees something is “broke” it’s okay to bring change that attempts to “fix” it. When “it is what it is” there is an expectation to make a change. Take advantage of these times to introduce healthy, smart change.

Disclaimer: Many times people overreact during these periods. Wisdom is still very important even when changes is expected. These type changes can often set precedents for future change.

When an organization is new

In the early days of an organization time can move quickly. Everything is new and so change may come rapidly. I experienced this in church planting. Change is almost an expected part of the process.

Disclaimer: The more you can slow down decisions in these days the better you will be long-term. Many times you make decisions fast only because you can and not because you have to make them fast.

When there is a crisis at hand

I’ve seen this in government, the church and among individuals. When something happens, which shakes the core of your being and scares people they’ll be more accepting of any change which seems to protect them.

Disclaimer: Sometimes these changes are regretted once emotions heal. Sometimes helping people deal with grief and giving them a sense of stability buys you time to reconcile the best changes needed.

When there is overwhelming support

There are times you can move swiftly simply because the support is overwhelming. Momentum for change is often fueled by public opinion.

Disclaimer: It should be noted that this type change can sometimes be dangerous it isn’t built on rational thought and is simply emotionally driven.

When situations are beyond control

Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop needed change. When government, or other powers, demand change, you can rebel or you can change – often quickly. You may not agree with the change forced upon you, but may have to react faster than you expected.

Disclaimer: This is one reason staying alert to future trends and predictions is important. It could be studying movements in the courts or government, tax changes, or cultural trends.

When you aren’t concerned about the outcome

There are times when the results simply don’t matter much in the scheme of things. As a pastor we would schedule baptisms almost any Sunday, for example. Sometimes we may not have a baptism scheduled, but knowing baptisms helped fulfill our key function as a church, we would quickly change our schedule to accommodate. Some changes are so in support of your vision you simply make them as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

Disclaimer: Be careful with this one. In atmospheres more receptive to change we can, as leaders, sometimes take advantage of this and fail to see the weight change is having on the people we lead. Even when much freedom is given to us to lead change we must be mindful of the real reaction of people we lead.

There are probably equally good illustrations for refusing to make change quickly. (There are probably even 7 of them.) Feel free to share them with me and my readers.

When have you seen the speed of change change?

A Reminder in Leading People – The Speed of Change is Relative

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

This is a reminder to leaders who are attempting to lead change. If you miss this one principle you can greatly damage the effectiveness of change or even your reputation as a leader in the change.

It’s simple, but it is powerful. Huge.

Here it is:

The speed of change is always relative.

See, I told you – simple. No rocket science here, but you must understand this when leading people through a change process.

As the leader, I, or someone on our team, may feel like we are moving at a snail’s pace. Change is taking forever. We are spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere fast. We have more meetings than are necessary. We are explaining the same thing over and over again.

At the same time, others – especially those experiencing the discomfort of change, may feel we are moving at rocket speed. Change is coming so quickly they cannot process it in their mind. They feel the world – or this change – is out of control. There hasn’t been enough discussion about the change. There are still more questions than answers.

Perception to the speed of change is relative to:

  • A person’s propensity or aversion to change.
  • The degree of comfort established in what we are currently doing.
  • Who or what initiated the change.
  • The perceived size of the change.
  • The degree of personal risk involved.
  • How the change is implemented.
  • The way the process of change is communicated.
  • My understanding of or buy-in to the “why” behind the change.
  • The level of personal sacrifice involved in the change.
  • The trust established in current leadership.

When you hear people talking about how fast or slow things are changing, remember their response is relative to their individual context.

Knowing this principle will help the leader be more sensitive to the reaction of others. It will help him or her with casting vision effectively. It will protect the leader from the perception of “running over people” with change.

This one understanding will make you a better change leader.

Think of this principle – the speed of change is relative – in your present context.

How fast are things changing in your life right now? Do you wish they were changing faster or slower?

7 Ways To Be A Best Friend To A Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastors, any suggestions you would add? 

5 Ways a Mature Leader Responds When the Team is Stressed

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 24 Comments

Every organization and team has times where everyone is stretched, stress abounds, and even times where it seems things are going backwards for a while. It could be in a time of crisis for the organization or during an exceptionally busy season. It could that be internal or external issues  are causing the stress. In these seasons, good leadership is more critical than ever.

Mature leaders have learned (often the hard way) that the way they respond in stress will directly impact the organization and everyone attempting to follow them. Ultimately the care for the organization greatly depends on the leader’s response during the stressful seasons.

Here are 5 mature ways for a leader to respond in stressful times:

A sense of calm

A leader must display a calmness in the midst of crisis. If the leader panics everyone panics. Trying times test a team and the leader needs to add a calmness to the situation, helping assure people everything will be okay.

This does not mean that the leader should give a false hope. People should understand reality, but it does mean helping people find a sense of balance and hope in the midst of what may seem hopeless in their minds.


There will always be temptations to give up under stress – for the team and the leader. A leader must walk by faith and keep the team moving forward. Through good times and the bad times the leader must stand firm.

You can read the hard lesson I learned about this issue in my post of advice to the leader when things are going wrong.


Character is most tested during stressful times. A leader must remain unquestioned in his or her integrity for the health of the team and organization.

People will watch to see how a leader responds. What a leader says or does in these seasons will be taken even more seriously (and subject to people’s own interpretations), so the leader must strive to be above reproach.


Decisions are harder to make but more important during stressful times. The leader must think strategically for the organization – helping to steer towards clarity and progress.

(Read a post about thinking strategically in the moment HERE)

Personal well-being

Leaders must remain healthy personally in order to continue to lead the organization. There will be a tendency to never leave the office, but during times of stress, the leader must continue to exercise, eat well, and be disciplined in rest. The leader must guard his or hear heart spiritually, knowing temptation is especially powerful under duress.

The personal health of the leader directly impacts the health of the team.

Leader, have you ever had to lead during especially stressful times? Are you there now?

What would you add to my list?

7 Things I Can Guarantee about Leadership

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 5 Comments

I once had a leader who was an emphatic talker. He made statements with no reservation in them about things – honestly – I simply didn’t believe. He would say stuff such as, “There is no way this would ever work.” Really? No way? Maybe the chance is limited, but no way?

He impressed upon me enough I’ve always been hesitant about emphatic statements – unless they are Biblical truths, of course.

But I have some emphatic statements to make. I’m calling them guarantees. And since I talk a great deal about leadership on this blog – these are leadership guarantees.

Here are 7 guarantees about leadership:

Every decision you make will produce a multiple of responses.

Some will agree. Some will not. And some will not care either way.

Change is inevitable. You’ll have to lead through it. 

You can deny it. You can attempt to avoid it. You can be afraid of how people will react to it. But change is coming either way. It’s best to be on the side of change where you at least have some chance of helping the change be for the best overall good of the people you lead.

You will many times feel under appreciated as a leader. 

In my observation, the longer you do something well the less people notice your efforts. It becomes your “normal”.

But this one is especially true if you are looking for appreciation. Of course, we all want to be appreciated, but genuine leaders are not as concerned about what other people think as they are about doing the right thing. And, because of this, they aren’t necessarily seeking personal recognition or applause. These leaders are methodical in their pursuit of progress, but not usually aware of how much good they actually are doing.

You can never adequately predict how people will respond.

Even the people you felt were your best supporters will sometimes turn on you if the decision you make does not go in their favor or if you bother their level of comfort. (That’s human nature.)

And then there will be some people who will rise to your support you that you didn’t even know were in your corner.

You will seldom be 100% certain – and yet you’ll still have to decide.

There is always a level of risk with every decision you make. If you wait for perfect conditions you will seldom do anything. You should ask good questions, get plenty of input, and certainly pray for wisdom. Sometimes, however, you simply have to pull the trigger on your gut instinct and get started.

Some “days” it won’t seem you’ve accomplished anything.

Sometimes it’s because nothing seemed to move forward. You seemed to take two steps backwards for every one step forward. There was no progress made on the mission. The team wasn’t clicking like they should. Those are hard days.

And, then sometimes, looking back, these days will be your best days. It might be because you spent all day investing in others – while other “work” goes undone. But remember, if you are leading you are in a people business. People will always be your best efforts.

You will make mistakes – and that never changes.

You will make lots of mistakes along the way. We don’t “outgrow” that as a leader. If you are leading then you are taking people into unknown territories. You are exploring, taking risks and attempting to figure out “what’s next”.

The reality is you will usually learn from mistakes made even more than the things you do right. The best leaders I know do not hide the mistakes they make. They use them as life lessons and help others grow through them.

I guarantee these to be true. Emphatically.

Or, at least I’m 97.9% sure. 🙂

5 Common Struggles Among Young Pastors

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

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

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

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

Here are the 5 most common struggles among pastors:

Personnel issues.

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

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

Navigating bureaucracy.

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

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

Balancing ministry and family time.

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

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

Developing leaders.

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

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

Handling critics.

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

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

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

Let me ask – was anything surprising about the list?

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

7 Enemies of Organizational Health

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

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

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

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

Here are 7 enemies of organizational health:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Delicate Tension – 7 Times Leadership is at Its Best

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 10 Comments

In my opinion, there are times when my leadership is better than others. I call them seasons. Seasons come and seasons go. Obviously, I would love for all of my seasons of leadership to be wonderful, but I have learned this isn’t realistic.

What I have observed is when leadership is at it’s best there is a delicate tension in place. The better the season the better I and balancing those tensions.

Let me share a few examples to describe what I mean.

Here are 7 times leadership is at its best when:

People follow willingly, not under coercion or force.

You aren’t leading unless people are following. We can find examples of people who did exactly what someone told them – yet, it wasn’t done willingly. The best leadership has willing participants – personally energized towards the vision.

There have been times I’m having to force things because of someone who isn’t pulling their weight. There are other times I’ve been guilty of trying to take people somewhere they had no interest in going.

People can keep up, but are still being stretched.

There is nothing worse than a leader who is too far ahead of the people he or she is trying to lead. Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car? Some people are good at leading you – some aren’t. But the best leadership is always taking you somewhere – somewhere you haven’t been before – stretching you towards something new. It’s a delicate tension between two extremes, but if one can’t follow another isn’t leading.

For me personally on this one, I have to discipline myself – and give my team permission to speak into my leadership – to keep from having too many ideas and not enough implementation.

People feel valued, while being challenged to continually improve.

This is a tough one for me. I’m wired for improvement. I’m a development guy. I’m seldom completely satisfied – especially with my own efforts. So, I want to continually challenge people to get better – for their good but also for the good of the team. But you can only push people so much. Ephesians 6 gives this warning to fathers of children. Sometimes as leaders we can push too hard – and frustrate the people we are trying to lead. We can make people feel we don’t appreciate what they are currently doing.

Again, this is a tough one for me to balance.

People are assigned to their specific passion, but readily do what needs to be done.

I learned this in church planting. We needed people just to do what needed to be done. We didn’t have enough people to “specialize”. I think the workplace is becoming a prime place for generalization today. People who succeed can adapt and “play” in different positions.

And, yet we also have learned that people are less likely to burnout and more likely to be passionate for their work if the work fits within who they are and how they are uniquely wired.

One way I try to personally balance this one is to place people into a position where they can “mostly” employ their individual gifting, but make sure they realize they will have to do some things they may not be as passionate about doing. And I tend to hire people as generalists and move them more into a specialist role as the organization can afford them and we have learned where they can best serve.

People have a clearly defined vision, but have freedom to invent and dream along the way.

This one is especially true for creative people – and I’m finding it true of younger generations. They need clear boundaries – clear instructions – they need to know what a win looks like. But they also need freedom within those boundaries to create – to explore – to dream – and to fail.

For this one, I try to have a few – really very few – non-negotiable things we want to achieve – the overall vision of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish currently and organizationally as a whole. When those are being met I try to be flexible in how people meet them – and where else they stretch us as a team.

People have real responsibility and authority, but don’t feel abandoned.

Delegation is a key to good leadership, but healthy delegation does not dump and run. There are adequate resources, feedback and accountability. People feel free to do their work without someone looking over their shoulder, but they know help is always nearby if needed.

Again, there is a delicate balance here. The main way to accomplish this one (learned the hard way and I talk about it in my book The Mythical Leader) is to assign a task, but continually ask good questions to assess progress and see where I might help. Asking, “How can I help you?” – and creating a culture where it feels okay to answer honestly – goes a long ways towards making people feel the care they deserve and the freedom they desire.

People take time to rest and celebrate, but aren’t allowed to sit still for long.

Sitting leads to complacency, boredom and eventually stagnation. And speaking candidly it drives me crazy to sit. Something inside of me screams we can’t sit still for long when there is so much which needs to be done. But the tension is we need to celebrate. And we definitely need to rest. That is even a command. Resting is good for the soul even more than the body sometimes.

Done well, celebration and rest should fuel us to be even more productive. We can accomplish more if we encourage both.

Do you see the tension? It’s real. And if you’re a leader you live these tensions everyday. As leaders we must guard the extremes.

Praying with you!

I started this post talking about the “seasons” of leadership. I need to recognize that sometimes the season is dictated by external circumstances. When a leader is new, in times of tragedy, or when there are people on the team who are severely underperforming would be an example of those times. These times may call for an “unbalanced” style of leadership – using the examples above.

In “normal” times – live the tension.


7 Things the Church Can’t Do for the Pastor

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization | 6 Comments

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. I was in the business world, as a pastor, and now in my new role serving the greater Church. I have often said, “the church is the hope of the world.” I believe it.

Of course, the church is a body of believers and there are churches that live out their mission well and others who don’t. That’s not news to anyone who has been a pastor very long – or a church member.

But even the greatest church simply can’t do some things for the pastor.

And, if the pastor thinks they can, or leave it up to them to do some things, they will someday find out the hard way they can’t.

I’ve also watched many times as pastors didn’t do these things the church couldn’t do for them – or relied on the church to do them. They may have attempted to meet the demands of the church, but somehow expected the church to be providing these needs. In the end it caused a huge void in the pastor’s life.

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

Again, 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.

Pastor, you will have to do some things yourself — by God’s grace and the Spirit of God’s help — 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.

You are ultimately responsible to God, your family and the church for staying true to who God has called you to be.

Love your family and protect your time with them. The church 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.

You have to protect what matters most to you.

Understand the demands on your time. The church can’t and likely won’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.

You must ultimately own your calendar and what goes on it.

Ensure you discipline your Sabbath time. You can teach the church and they can know it intellectually, 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 Biblcially commanded Sabbath (yes, that’s for pastor’s too) — 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. It’s dangerous to assume they know what hasn’t been shared. And when people don’t understand something they make up their own version of the story.

You will have to communicate – and communicate again and again – what God is placing on your heart for the future of the church. The clearer you are and the more you communicate the more likely they will be to understand and be willing to follow.

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. In fact, the longer you do something well the less “applauds” you will receive. Even if you’re excellent at what you do, eventually excellence for you because average in the minds of the church.

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 people may be used of God to speak into your life, but your personal calling is between you and God. And it is ultimately to God’s purposes even more than to the local church’s purposes. The church 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. They have their own callings from God as well.

You and your family have to guard your own calling – and stay or go where God calls you to at the time. For me personally, I’ve never been able to see very far down the road into that call.

Bottom line of this post: Don’t expect others to do for you what only you — by God’s grace and God’s Spirit — can do.

The Second-Tier Leadership Principle – (This has made me a better leader.)

By | Change, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

A number of years ago I began thinking in terms of “tiers of leadership”. It was during the first year of a new position. I saw so many things I wanted to do in the organization, but I knew I could never accomplish everything I wanted to do in the first year or even first two years.

Real change in any organization – the kind which changes ingrained structure and systems – DNA type changes – and sometimes people changes – often take steady progress over a number of years. So, it was helpful to me to start thinking of things in terms of tiers of leadership. Staggering significant changes over seasons of my leadership made me a more effective – and less frustrated leader. Tiers of leadership is not putting off things I don’t want to do. It is doing what I can realistically and effectively do in this season and then scheduling things I couldn’t do as well now into another season of leadership.

Since then the use of tier leadership has been confirmed for me many times. It is such an important understanding of how I lead; especially when I am new to an organization. I am naturally wired to come into a new position ready to conquer the world. Even after years of being in leadership, I can naively think we can accomplish everything that needs to be done quickly.

Time and experience has proven otherwise – at least in my leadership.

I’m convinced, if a leader doesn’t understand “tiered leadership” – or whatever term they choose to use to describe it – the leader will often think he or she is doing something wrong as a leader. They will wonder why everything hasn’t improved yet. They may even question their ability to lead. Ultimately those who are trying to follow will be frustrated as well. (I often have to share with our staff and board what I’m doing, or they will think I am ignoring important things.) All of this simply because they tried to do everything in one “tier” of leadership.

Just because a leader is not able to accomplish everything needed in one “tier” of leadership is not an indication that they are leading poorly. They may be leading poorly (that would have to be another post), but it might be they are simply being strategic as a leader.

Bottom line – A second-tier leadership understanding allows the leader to set realistic goals and objectives in the first tier and then shift other goals and objectives to the second tier of leadership.

Another understanding of second-tier leadership, which is also vital to know, is that second-tier leadership is often harder than first-tier leadership. And again, this is not because you put off doing the hard things. Usually it is because the timing for the harder things – strategically speaking – made more sense to do them in the second tier.

Let me try to explain.

First tier leadership involves the onboard process of the leader. The leader is learning the organization and the organization is learning the leader.

In my experience, realistic first tier changes – even the messy ones involving replacing people – are usually more obvious to people. Everyone knows they need to be done, even if they are hard to accept. Plus, a new leader has a short window where people expect some changes to occur.

First tier decisions are often the ones, which bring the fastest momentum to the organization. It may involve vision-casting or strategic planning. These first tier decisions may be the ones intended to either build a leader’s credibility or stabilize a declining organization.

In the second tier of leadership – the changes that need to be made are often less obvious. These changes may, for example, involve good people, who haven’t necessarily done anything wrong, but who are no longer a good fit for the organization. Everyone loves them and no one expects them to go anywhere. Changes made with these people will be harder to accept and often require a “second tier” of leadership.

Another example – It might be that in the second-tier of leadership is where a leader begins to move the organization to change things, which are more deeply entrenched into the DNA of the organization. The leader may have avoided them in the first tier, because he or she did not feel they had built enough trust to tackle these changes. (This is being strategic, not negligent as a leader.)

The bottom line understanding again – and the point of this post –

A second-tier leadership understanding allows the leader to set realistic goals and objectives in the first tier and then shift other goals and objectives to the second tier of leadership.

To be clear, in my experience, there is also usually a third tier of leadership – and a fourth tier and a fifth tier and… Well, hopefully you get the point.

Understanding the tiers of leadership, and planning reasonable advances or changes in the organization for each tier, will help a leader feel, and probably actually be, more successful as a leader.