7 Indications You’re Delegating in a Healthy Way

By | Church, Leadership | No Comments

Empowering other people on the team to be leaders – delegation – is critical to a successful church or organization. Every leader talks about delegation, but few truly empower others to be leaders. It’s a frustration I hear frequently from staff members of churches.

Frankly, as one with a strength (StrengthFinders) of command, I can easily take over if no one else takes the lead. It takes discipline as a leader, but I want to create an environment of healthy empowerment. I want to lead a church which produces leaders – disciples who actually make disciples.

But how do you know whether healthy empowerment is occurring?

I don’t know if we can follow a script, but perhaps there are some principles which need to be in place to know we are creating cultures conducive to empowerment.

Here are 7 signs I look for in healthy empowerment:

(This is written from the perspective of those being empowered – “you” being the one empowering.)

Confidence is conveyed

People know you believe they can do the job. They aren’t questioning your belief in or support of them. People are less likely to take risks if they feel you will always second-guess them.

Expectations are clearly communicated

Everyone is clear on what a win looks like in your eyes and what is required of them to complete the task. You’ve not left them guessing. And you stay available to them through the process if questions arise.

Authority has been granted

People have been given the full authority to script the path to accomplishment. They don’t need to “check-in” for approval on every decision they make.

Permission to fail is assured

People know if what they attempt doesn’t work that they will be encouraged to try again. You won’t hold it against them and together everyone learns what to improve the next time.

Resources are adequate

People have the training, tools and people to accomplish the delegated task.

Their back is protected

People know their decisions will be backed by senior leadership. If the complainers rise, which they will, you will be there to defend their efforts.

Recognition is shared

They know they won’t do all the work for you to get the all credit. People believe they will be adequately appreciated for their work.

Consider your process of delegation. Consider my list.

How are you doing?

5 Ways To Deal With Insecurity as a Pastor

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

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

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

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?

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 10 Comments

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

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization | 10 Comments

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

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

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 Resolutions That Can Improve Ministry Leadership

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Leadership | 2 Comments

The best leadership, in my opinion, comes out of the resolve a leader has made in his or her heart.

The resolve of a leader is a pre-determined approach to way a leader will lead. These are personal convictions, values, and personally held beliefs, which shape the decisions a leader makes and the way he or she responds to others.

Ultimately a leader’s personal resolves – about anything – determine the way they respond and their actions towards it. (I once preached on how this principle impacts our spiritual life. You can listen to this message HERE.)

Most often these resolutions are made even prior to being in a leadership position.

The resolve of a leader is powerful. In fact, if  leader wants to improve his or her leadership, he or she must often improve first their personal resolve.

So, do you want to improve your leadership?

10 resolutions guaranteed to improve ministry leadership:

I resolve to:

Never compromise my character in search of progress.

Consistently walk by faith in some area of my life – personally or professionally.

Pray earnestly before I make major decisions and solicit others to join me in discerning God’s direction.

Extend grace generously, never hold a grudge, and realize mistakes are a part of healthy leadership (and discipleship).

Protect my family time – never compromising it in the name of ministry.

Make my personal health a priority. As much as it depends on me, discipline myself to stay as healthy mentally and physically.

Allow trials and challenges to draw me closer to Christ and shape my character.

Love others unconditionally – even those with whom I do not agree.

Empower and invest in others, giving them opportunities to grow as individuals.

Surround myself with wise and moral influencers, allowing at least a few people access to know and speak into the most private parts of my life.

Which of these resolves do you need to make at this point in your ministry leadership?

7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

By | Culture, Devotional, Encouragement, Life Plan, Prayer | 27 Comments

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today.

In especially busy or stressful times of life, however, I do not always feel as disciplined in each area of my life. I may excel in one area, but not in another.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit – part of the DNA of my daily life. This process has worked for me before. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. I’ve done this before and it forms healthy habits I carry on throughout the year.

For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat.

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to be, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I know this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to do cardio 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 days per week.

Sleep – Through my life I haven’t usually needed a ton of sleep, but that has changed as I have gotten older. My goal here is lights out by 10:15 and to take short power naps as needed – and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days?

You can change the details of each discipline, you may need more calories or less, you may choose a different exercise, etc. (For example, the graphic I used is from when I did this several years ago. I no longer run like I did then. I’ll likely do this time on the elliptical or with fast walking.)

The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

And don’t be legalistic about it either. This is not meant to bring another burden to your life. It is meant to help you be relieved from some – eventually. If you mess up one day just begin again the next.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

5 Personal Reflection Questions to End a Year and Start Another

By | Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | No Comments

I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise. 

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends.

Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed).

I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Perhaps you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. It could be you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to.

Perhaps you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Most of us need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream?

Could this be the year you mend the broken relationship? What would the year be like if you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Maybe this is the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Perhaps getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. 

When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise. 

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!

10 Proverbs to Improve Social Media

By | Christians, Leadership | One Comment

These Proverbs Could Greatly Improve Social Media

If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences. Proverbs 9:12

Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:13

A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11

Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. Proverbs 11:12 

The one who searches for what is good seeks favor, but if someone looks for trouble it will come to him. Proverbs 11:27 

A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Proverbs 12:16

There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 

Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1 

Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent – discerning, when he seals his lips. Proverbs 17:28

Any you would add?

(All CSB Version)