When You Allow Others to Help You in Your Time of Loss or Pain

By | Church, Encouragement, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

When you allow someone to help you.

When you are in pain.

When you are in the midst of a trial.

When you are overwhelmed with more to do than you know how to do.

When you suffer loss.

When others offer to help you, let them help. And don’t be afraid to ask for another person’s help.

Because there is a key life principle about helping others.

When others help you it may be therapy for them.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But we ignore the help the helper gains from the helping the one they help.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor. It often is helping the helping pastor heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient. The helper’s heart heals a little too.

A parent who lost a child is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child. And it often gives a slight sense of relief to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain – yours or theirs, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others that are in pain. Sharing in each other’s pain is a biblical principle. (2 Cor 1:3-7, Eph 4:2)

I have only shared a few examples. You can probably add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life, your stories, your pain, your experiences to others who can help – helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

The Quickest Way to Spur Organizational Change

By | Change, Church, Innovation, Leadership, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?

I have practiced this one for years and it almost always triggers change. It has worked in business, government and church. It worked in church planting and in church revitalization.

It is cost effective too.

The quickest way to spur organizational change:

Expose leaders to new ideas.

In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.

Often faster than any other way.

That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs, podcasts and articles I read. We have often read books together as a staff.

Keep in mind, this works as long as people are allowed to dream – and the leader doesn’t have to control everything. When people are introduced to new ideas it produces energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Often quickly.

It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks, slight improvements and small adjustments can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team.

And the best part – there is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.

One way we practiced this was in the most recent church where I served as pastor. We often used training budget to take our entire ministerial staff and spouses to another city and church several times larger than our church. They had usually figured out some things we were still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member met with their counterpart staff member at the other church. We would ask questions and explore their story. It was always insightful.

I never knew how it would work or what ideas we would uncover, but I was sure of one thing. It would expose us to some new ideas. We would come home with some immediate changes to consider. Plus our team bonded and there was a new energy and momentum developed.

And that’s a win for me.

Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.

When it doesn’t make sense to people…(what people do)

By | Church, Leadership, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

When it doesn’t make sense to people…

People often complain.

While speaking at a conference in a major city several years ago we treated ourselves to a nice restaurant. (In full disclosure, that city was Dallas and who knew then we’d someday live here). The only parking available was valet parking. The funny thing was when we drove to the parking lot where we would be valeted. I put our car in park at the valet station, got out of the car, handed the keys to the nice young valet, and watched him drive it about ten feet away into a parking space. Then we paid for parking (it wasn’t free) and, as we left, naturally felt obligated tip the valet. (He had finished his job, which was to retrieve our car from the parking spot ten feet in front of us.)

It didn’t make sense to me. We didn’t complain out loud. (I was a pastor at the time you see.) But we did complain to each other. And we heard lots other people in the restaurant complaining out loud.

Sure, the restaurant is good enough and is in a location where they are always busy and can “get away” with it, but it still was frustrating to out of town visitors. Maybe they should have just charged for parking. Perhaps there were reasons we couldn’t understand. But it seemed rather silly to us and other patrons of the restaurant. So people complained.

It was a reminder to me in leadership. As much as you can:

  • Eliminate confusion as much as possible
  • Share the vision – and share it again and again
  • Give details – more than you think are needed
  • Allow questions – there are no dumb ones
  • Answer questions – as best as you have answers
  • Don’t assume people know – they only know what they know
  • Use simple and understandable words – and repeat them often

Of course, this doesn’t meant that even if you do all of this there won’t be times when things still makes no sense to people. Part of leading is to take people to unknown places at times – where there are not yet systems and strategies and words attached to the vision. Leadership naturally has some confusion attached to it.

But, as best as we can, we need to bring people along to better understandings of the why behind what we are doing. Clarity often eliminates confusion. It almost always encourages support. At the very least it keeps down the chatter.

Because…

When it doesn’t make sense to people – people often complain.

(They also make up their own version of why things are the way they are. And they are usually wrong.)

My Philosophy on Staff Members Serving Outside Church

By | Church, Leadership, Uncategorized | 22 Comments

As a pastor, I had a strong conviction about staff members in regards to one way they should spend their time. I often encouraged our staff to volunteer somewhere in our community.

I never felt I could mandate it, but my dream for the church was that every staff member would find somewhere to serve – outside the church.

It could be

  • Coaching a ball team.
  • Serving on a non-profit board.
  • Helping regularly at a food kitchen.
  • Periodically picking up trash along the road.
  • Visiting a nursing home often.
  • Working with a para-church ministry consistently.
  • Joining a civic group or community leadership program.
  • Reading to children in the public school system.
  • And, I tried to lead by example. My wife did also. We both served on numerous non-profit boards, we volunteered in several local ministries, and we even volunteered in our local visitor’s center once or twice a month.

    We did this personally and believe in it, because it allowed us to get outside the walls of the church. It’s hard to actually meet unchurched people when we aren’t ever outside the church.

    It also allowed us to be a part of and show support for our community. We could learn more about the people we were trying to reach. It’s hard to reach people you don’t know.

    Perhaps more important to me, my philosophy, coming out of the business world into ministry was if we were going to ask others to serve in the church and community, we needed to set an example they could follow.

    The truth is some of us get paid to serve in the church. (Even in my current job – I’m paid to do ministry. I need a place to volunteer.)

    My question was always – where do I “volunteer”?

    In addition to not being able to reach people you don’t know you can’t reach people you don’t love. Well, the more we love our communities the more we will want to serve our communities.

    And, I’m convinced, it’s the best way for the church to remain viable in our communities today.

    So, while as a pastor I didn’t mandate volunteering. I certainly did encourage it. (And, thankfully most of our staff did.)

The Real Reason Many Policies are Written

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership, Uncategorized | 24 Comments

In her book “Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands”, Nancy Ortberg talks about the need to differentiate between “a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved“.

One example for me is the constant tension between the administration/money side of ministry and the discipleship/hands on side of ministry. As pastor, I’m always going to have to balance tension between our business administrator working to conserve cash and our missions pastor finding legitimate ministry needs in which to spend it, for example. That’s a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved.

On the other hand, an employee who is taking advantage of a more casual organizational structure, which is a style of leadership I typically prefer, is a problem to be solved. Quickly. I prefer systems and structures which allow for freedom of individualized methods of execution, towards a more defined vision we are seeking to attain. When one person is disrupting that system – causing more harm than good to the organization – that’s a problem to be solved. And, solved now.

Many policies are written, because someone didn’t want to solve a problem.

This is especially prevalent in the church world. Churches, in my experience, are notorious for creating a new policy to attempt to manage the problem rather than doing the difficult work of solving it. Solving the problem often involves getting personal with people. It involves challenging people. It involves change. It involves holding people accountable to a higher standard. That’s messy. It’s never fun. Most churches like neat, clean and seemingly easy.

Using my illustration above, if the missions pastor has a perceived spending problem, rather than addressing the problem with him directly, many times a policy is created to “solve” the problem and curtail spending. Every other staff member may be performing satisfactorily, but the policy controls everyone.

Plus, the missions pastors may not even know the real problem. Without wise counsel, the missions pastor never learns principles of healthy budgeting or how to manage cash flow, for example. They never understand why overspending in the missions budget negatively impacts every other ministry. That person will likely continue to struggle handling finances the rest of their ministry – many times not even knowing why – just knowing they had they bumped up against a policy somewhere. And, they were truly trying to help people. (See the tension.)

Problem not solved.

Policies are easy. They are a piece of paper. They may involve some discussion, perhaps a committee meeting (maybe even a tense committee meeting), even a church vote, but they seldom specifically address the people who are causing the problem in the first place. They make people in leadership positions feel better about the problem, but they almost never solve real problems. In fact, they usually only create more problems, which later need to be solved!

I realize this problem is not limited to churches. Even the best organizations and corporations struggle to address problems as needed.

My advice: Manage the tensions, but solve the problems.

Do the hard work. It’s what leaders are supposed to do. Not always easiest. Always best.

Have you seen churches (or organizations) try to manage a problem that needed to be solved?

Bonus points if you give me an example.

7 Things Which Happen When I’m Tired

By | Business, Church, Encouragement, Leadership, Uncategorized | 19 Comments

I remember returning from Africa late one Sunday night. I was physically exhausted, but emotionally energized, so I hit the floor running at full speed Monday morning. I had back-to-back meetings from early morning until late night my first day back to work. Tuesday was no different. Wednesday we had an extended family emergency, which occupied most of the day. By the time Thursday came, I began to crash. And, it wasn’t pretty. For me or anyone on our team.

That scenario has been repeated many times in my life.

In seasons like this I’m reminded of an important leadership and life principle. When I’m physically tired I tend to be less than my professional self.

Here are 7 things which happen when I’m tired:

Doubt my abilities

It’s not uncommon for a leader to have doubts, but when I am stressed I’m far more likely to think I don’t have what it takes to perform what’s required of me. Of course, I know intellectually God’s strength is perfect in my weakness, but when I’m tired my emotions are stronger than truth.

Question my purpose

There have been times I wondered if I was even supposed to be a pastor anymore. It wasn’t because of anything happening in the church. It was simply I was tired. My exhaustion was feeding me lies.

Lose patience faster

I’m not the most patient person. It’s a matter of spiritual maturity in which I still need to mature. But, when I’m fatigued my weaknesses – my sinful ways – seem to exaggerate.

Ignore known truth

Again, being tired impacts my emotional state. My emotions gain fuel. Truth – what’s real – drowns in a sea of doubt. I struggle spiritually when I am tired. Sin comes quicker, because I ignore the truth I already know.

Give up more easily

I would usually push through walls or challenges. But, I can be a big wimp when I am tired. I quit quickly.

Lean toward a negative response

I’m usually the one who brings the positive perspective to a room. I like to spin negatives into positives. The glass is way over half full for me. But, sometimes when I’m extremely tired I can seem to only see what’s wrong with the world.

Stress faster than usual

Stress is simply a way our body protects itself from being overwhelmed. Stress screams, “Stop! You’re going to crash if you keep going!” It may or may not be true most of the time, but when I’m exhausted it’s probably a needed reaction. I am about to crash.

Sometimes the best thing to do is the hardest thing for me to do. R E S T ! Take it easy.

When I find myself in times of severe fatigue, I’ve been known to go home and take a nap at lunch. Then I’ll spend a night or two doing nothing, which is difficult for me). I go to bed early. I sleep late (for me). Then I feel better, have a better outlook on life and think more productively.

What you do when your exhausted will communicate a great deal to the people you are trying to lead. The moral of this post is to never allow your physical condition to impact your practical opportunity as a leader.

In a future post I will share some ways I personally deal with fatigue.

When I Say I and When I Say We

By | Business, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership, Uncategorized | 24 Comments

I was talking with someone the other day about my experience with church planting. As I told my personal story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”. Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?” I was talking about me the whole time, but I confused him with my verbiage. I wasn’t trying to be confusing. It’s just a habit I’ve formed. I love teams and team-building and I’ve learned that developing a team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams.

I cringe when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, their church or organization. To me it always sounds so controlling, prideful, and arrogant. As an example, Ben Reed is our small groups pastor at Grace Community Church. He’s an amazing leader. I would give anything to have been where he is at his age when I was that same age. When I refer to him, I don’t say “He’s my small groups guy”. He’s not! He’s our small groups guy. I don’t want to portray to him or others that I control him. I would be limiting his potential if I refer to him in a possessive sense.

I understand it’s just semantics, but to me it’s an important one for leaders to think through. If we truly want to create a team environment, then we must have team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use the personal words, such as:

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5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

Wow! Time has proven this repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful! If the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. (Duh!)

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead people who are different from you – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

I’m just being candid here – frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we – but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input.

This probably should have come first, but this is – honestly – more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep soft drinks in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns. I used to keep candy, but then health insurance became tricky.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?