RELP – Episode 23 – Bad Decisions Leaders Make in Decline or Plateau

By | Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Podcast | One Comment

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about Bad Decisions Leaders Make in times of Decline or Plateau in the organization.

Some statistics reported have said about 75-80% of churches (even as high as 90 I’ve read) are in decline or plateau.

I’m thankful to have served in churches and business in fast growth mode.

But, equally important in the formation of me as a leader, is that I’ve had experience in leading through difficult days also. Most of my times leading with periods of decline were in the business world, although I have entered a couple churches in the midst of difficult days. So, I’ve led through periods of decline; and faced many plateaus in business and in the church. Of course, those times are less fun than in the growth periods.

Much of what I’ve learned in this podcast though I learned through suffering through my own bad decisions as a leader during periods of decline or plateau.

In this episode, we discuss bad decisions leaders make in times of decline or plateau.

We are hearing from many leaders who are enjoying these podcast. We know they are simple. It is intended to be a quick listen to a conversation between father and son – (and in this one – father and friend) who are both struggling to figure out leadership in our individual contexts.

As always, I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

We will be recording more episodes soon. Let us know leadership issues you would like us to cover.

Also be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

Perception is Reality for a Leader

By | Church Revitalization, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

Perception is often reality for a leader. Over the years, I have learned how a team sees you as a leader is often more important than who you really are as a leader.

Obviously, character is most important. Integrity matters even more than perception. You’ll often be misunderstood and you can’t please everyone. In fact, somedays, as a leader – it seems – you can’t please anyone.

So, as a leader, I’d rather know my character is genuine. I want to be loved most by those who know me best. 

That matters most. 

The reality of the success of a leader, however, may depend more on how you are viewed by the people you lead than it does on what you do as a leader.

Perception is often reality for a leader. 

I’ve learned, often the hard way, that the two are not always the same. You can have the greatest integrity, know all the right leadership techniques, and have a track record of success, but the way people you are trying to lead perceive you will determine the quality of your leadership – almost more than anything else. 

  • Do  people perceive you as an agent of empowerment or an agent of control?
  • Are you perceived as more a champion for their ideas or a killer of their dreams?
  • Do they perceive you more as a proponent of change or a protector of tradition?
  • Are you perceived as a friend of progress or the enemy of success?
  • Do they believe you will protect them when their back is turned?
  • Are you perceived as having their best interest ahead of your  own?
  • Do they genuinely perceive that your heart is fully committed to the team – or are you seeking your next best opportunity?
  • Are you perceived as likely to get angry when mistakes are made – or be grace-giving?
  • Do people perceive you as approachable more than you are harsh? 

These are all perceptions. And perceptions are often reality for a leader. 

Much of your success as a leader will depend on the perception you create among the people you attempt to lead. People will follow closer when their perception of you is that you are for them more than against them.

Perception is ultimately created by how you lead, but sometimes – just as vision does – perception leaks. So, people form perceptions regardless of whether or not you do anything. Perceptions may or may not be reality, but as a leader, I must be keenly aware of this principle. 

Candidly. I’ve seen this go in seasons in my leadership. I’ve often had to reinforce the perception in people’s minds about my leadership. Often this is after a busy or stressful time, when their is tension on the team, or during times of change. The team needs to perceive I’m still the leader they want to follow.

Sometimes, I need to ask pointed questions – (I’ve even done anonymous surveys) – to gauge people’s current perceptions of my leadership. 

But I must be aware that my perception is often reality as a leader. 

If you’re still trying to get your mind around my thoughts, here is an example: 

Once we had make some rather significant changes to our organizational structure. It meant fewer people reported directly to me. When we announced the changes I reiterated my open door policy and availability to our staff would continue. People who work with me long have learned this is how I lead.

But human nature kicks in for all of us. And change evokes an emotional response, which helps shape people’s perceptions. I knew I needed to take intentional actions in the weeks following to make sure the perception of my leadership is as strong as my actual leadership.

Guard how people perceive you as a leader. 

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

7 Ways We Make People Feel Unwelcome At Our Church

By | Christians, Church, Church Revitalization | 2 Comments

Over the years, I have seen signs like the one in this post and the first word that pops in my head is “Closed”. Anything which seems exclusive to the people already on the inside makes me as an outsider feel unwelcome to the church.

I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. It’s hopefully a very welcoming church. I also know there are circumstances which make some churches have to limit their parking. Again, probably not the intent, but signs like this seem harsh to me as someone unfamiliar with a specific church.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church to attend. I’ve spoken at and consulted with many churches in all types and sizes. We had the opportunity in Dallas to “shop” churches. It was my first time to ever seek out a church. Honestly, it wasn’t a wonderful experience.

So, from very personal experience –

Ways we make people feel unwelcome at our church:

Only do “church” on Sunday.

When we make no effort to build community with people who visit we let people know by our actions – or lack of actions – that we are comfortable with the people in the church now. And that there is little room for new friendships. (This could include not reaching out to people we haven’t seen in a while.) From our experience in Dallas, Cheryl and I visited several churches, filled out a visitor card, and never heard from anyone.

BTW, this may include only valuing the programs and activities that happen “in the church building” and not valuing people’s “ministries” outside the building.

Don’t act like you’re happy to see people.

When a church has no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors it feels very unwelcoming to visitors who have never been there. Sometimes we have greeters, but they are only talking to people they already know. (In fairness, Sunday is their “catch up” day with friends, but again, it is very unwelcoming to visitors.)

I was once the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to me. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

Confuse people who don’t know your building.

Display confusing signage or, perhaps even worse, have none at all and visitors will feel unwelcome. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker – as an introvert especially – I might have left. (Just being honest.)

In fairness, that could have easily been said of churches where I have pastored. But it was something we paid a lot of attention to – including adding people as “hosts”. You can’t always move walls in a confusing building layout, but you can mitigate part of the problem with good signage and friendly people.

Make it obvious and awkward to be a “visitor”.

This happens when people only talk to the only people they already know. Another way is to make visitors feel very conspicuous. I can’t believe it, but some churches we’ve visited still have visitors stand up maybe or raise their hands – and keep them up until an usher comes by to hand a visitor card.

We once attended a church which made visitors stand up, introduce themselves, and tell why they came that day. Talk about awkward. Again, that’s extreme, but it certainly caused me to review how we make visitors feel unwelcome in our church.

Have your own language.

Some churches – and denominations – notoriously develop acronyms for everything. When we pretend everyone already knows what we are talking about – such as differentiating between VBS and Vacation Bible School – we make outsiders feel left out of the conversation. (Even with the name of it can be confusing as to what it really is without some description being given.)

Another thing which can be very unwelcoming is to use personal names during the announcements. No one knows who John is except the regulars – even if John is the youth pastor. (“We’ll meet at Sally’s for the ice cream social. See Joe if you want more information.” – makes a visitor feel unwelcome at a church.)

Have only “closed” groups within the church.

It could be any group – Bible studies, service groups, but when any small group has been together more than a few years – with no new people entering the group – it’s likely a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children. They will feel very left out when personal conversation begins.

The best solution, in my experience, is to continually be starting new groups. (I realize the challenge here for small churches. I’ve pastored those too. You have to get creative. You’ll probably have to have hard conversations. And you certainly have to cast vision for why this is important.)

Beat people up without giving them hope.

When we are clearer about how bad people are than how great the Gospel is we can make outsiders – who may not yet be living the life we would suggest for them – like they don’t belong and have no chance of getting there. We should teach on sin – and not just certain sins, but all sin, including what I call the 3 G’s – gossip, gluttony and greed.

My goal is to always let people leave with the hope of the Gospel. It’s actually the only hope we all have. And visitors can’t find that kind of hope anywhere else in the world.

Those are a few of my observations that make people feel unwelcome at a church. Again, none of us would purposively make people feel unwelcome at a church. But we must be careful we haven’t done so by our unintentional actions.

5 Things I Naturally Control as a Senior Leader

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

There are some things the senior leader will naturally control – whether intentional or unintentional. 

Having planted two churches and two revitalization churches I am frequently asked about what things do I try to control and which did I release to others.

I love the question. It is one all leaders need to ask themselves – frequently.

The leadership lid you create will be in whatever area you choose to control.

I believe this strongly and it’s why I often discipline myself not to have an answer. I purposively choose to give things away to others on our team – things they can’t do better than me and things I simply shouldn’t be doing.

As much as I love delegation, however, there are some things a senior leader will naturally control.

5 things I naturally control as a senior leader:

Vision

Senior leadership should make sure the vision of the organization is always in the minds of people. If they don’t, no one will embrace the vision. In fact, there will likely be competing visions within the organization.

Staff culture

Senior leadership plays the primary role in setting the staff culture. Things such as staff morale, organizational structure, and the working atmosphere are greatly embedded and formed by the senior leader – good or bad.

The organization’s pursuit of excellence

People will never push for more excellence than the level expected, led, and lived by senior leadership.

The moral value of the organization 

The character and integrity of the organization will reflect senior leadership’s character and integrity. Period.

The velocity of change

Senior leadership sets the speed in which change and innovation is welcome in the organization. If they are slow to make decisions, the organization will run slowly. And vice-versa.

There are things, which by default senior leadership will naturally control.

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

RELP – Episode 22 – Unseen Leadership Traits of Great Leaders

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about 7 Unspoken, Unseen Leadership Traits That Make Leaders Great.

There are parts of leadership you won’t read on a job description when they are telling you about the place you will work. There are traits of a leader which are unseen – often unknown. These traits have to be tested and you won’t know the traits are there until the test is complete, but these traits are what prove a leader to be a great leader.

I like to call it the “backside of leadership.”

In this episode, we discuss unseen leadership traits of great leaders.

We are hearing from many leaders who are enjoying these podcast. We know they are simple. It is intended to be a quick listen to a conversation between father and son – (and in this one – father and friend) who are both struggling to figure out leadership in our individual contexts.

As always, I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

We will be recording more episodes soon. Let us know leadership issues you would like us to cover.

Also be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

Effective Questions Promote Effective Brainstorming

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | No Comments

Brainstorming often leads a team to the answers you can’t seem to find any other way. And effective questions promote effective brainstorming. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right responses.

The most effective brainstorming begins with great questions.

For example, what if the team is trying to discern what went wrong on a project?

Perhaps there has been some major fall out and the team has suffered damage, either financially, in reputation or in morale. The questions you ask could determine how well you recover. (By the way, I talk almost weekly to churches in some form crisis mode. This process may help with that scenario also.)

Using that as our example, consider the questions in this post. Some questions will apply to a similar circumstance with your team and some won’t. You’ll need to add some of your own. But see if the principle of asking effective questions can help lead you through an effective and helpful brainstorming session.

Below are 4 words and sets of questions to lead your team in brainstorming. This is simply for illustration purposes, but if I were leading you through this process, (and I’m happy to come help you do that) we would take time on each section, stopping to summarize our findings along the way. Depending on the size of the group, we may break into sub-groups to brainstorm, then come back together to summarize.

The words and questions aren’t “magic”. They are simply a strategy for getting some effective brainstorming questions in front of the group to draw out the conversation.

Again, depending on what you are trying to discover, you would change the words and the questions in each section.

Effective questions for effective brainstorming:

Reflect on the current circumstances.

  • What went wrong?
  • How did it happen?
  • What’s the damage?
  • Who is impacted?
  • How much did it cost us – in capital, momentum, morale and reputation?
  • What are the long-term and the short-term ramifications?

Recalculate based on our current scenario.

  • How can we improve?
  • How do we keep it from happening again?
  • What’s the best way to recover?
  • Who are the right players in our recovery?
  • What are the immediate, mid-range and long-term decisions we need to make, as a result of this?

Recharge ourselves from our loss.

  • Why are we doing what we do? (Our vision should drive us.)
  • What’s our motivation to begin again?
  • Why are we needed? (If we weren’t here, who would miss us – and why?)
  • What are some of our examples of success? (We can build from those.)
  • What can we do to spur new momentum?

(Don’t skip this set of questions. Regardless of the issue, this type thinking is needed every time. You’ll be tempted to ignore them, because you assume you know these, but you always need the energy this type dialogue produces. Depending on the issue, you can’t usually do this immediately as well, because the previous issues are usually clouding people’s minds.)

Reignite the team to move forward.

  • How soon can we begin again?
  • Do we need a relaunch or do a complete overhaul?
  • What’s our strategy moving forward?
  • Who is our spokesperson?
  • What are some short-term, “low hanging fruit” wins we can have?
  • Who needs to do what to get things going?
  • Where are we healthy enough to build upon?

Asking the right questions may determine the success or failure in the days ahead. But don’t miss asking effective questions for effective brainstorming. The time you spend preparing for a session like this is just as important as what happens during the session. 

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

7 High Costs of Leadership Every Leader Should Pay

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

Leadership can be expensive. If we desire to be leaders it will likely cost us something – maybe even something we value greatly. There are high costs of leadership that every leader should be willing to pay. 

The reality is that leadership is a stewardship. It’s the keeping of a valuable trust others place in you. Therefore, cheap leadership is never good leadership.

What high costs are you paying for leadership? 

Let me give you a few examples.

7 high costs of leadership:

Personal agenda

Good leaders give up their personal desires for the good of others, the team or the organization. 

Control

What you control you limit. Good leaders give freedom and flexibility to others in how they accomplish the predetermined goals and objectives.

Popularity

Leading well is no guarantee a leader will be popular. In fact, there will be times where the opposite is more true. Leaders take people through change. Change is almost never initially popular. I wrote a whole chapter about this principle in my book The Mythical Leader.

Comfort

If you are leading well you don’t often get to lead “comfortably”. You get to wrestle with messiness and awkwardness and push through conflict and difficulty. It’s for a noble purpose, but it isn’t easy.

Fear

Good leadership leads into the unknown. That’s often scary. Even the best leaders are anxious at times about what is next.

Loneliness

I believe every leader should surround themselves with other leaders. We should be vulnerable enough to let others speak into our life. But there will be days when a leader has to stand alone. Others won’t immediately understand. On those days the quality of strength in a leader is revealed. This one should never be intentional, but when you are leading change – when it involves risk and unknowns – this will often be for a season a significant cost.

Outcomes

People follow worthy visions. Of course, we should create measurable goals and objectives. We should discipline for the tasks ahead. We don’t, however, get to script the way people respond, how times change, or the future unfolds.

As leaders, we should consider whether we are willing to pay the price for the high costs of leadership. Good leadership is not cheap!

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

You Must Do THIS if You Want to Attract Leaders

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

If you want to attract leaders to your team there is one thing you must do – above everything else. It’s a philosophy of leadership, but it is HUGE.

One of the most frequent concerns I receive from young leaders about their organizations is they aren’t being given adequate responsibly or authority. Instead, they are handed a set of tasks to complete. They don’t feel they have a part in creating the big picture for the organization.

Since most of the young leaders I talk to are in ministry, this means it’s happening in the church too.

The other side of this dilemma is most the pastors I hear from are looking for leaders. They want someone to take the reigns of leadership and actually do something.

How do we solve the problem?

Can we attract leaders for our churches? How do we allow younger team members to feel included? And how do other successful organizations (churches) attracts leaders?

If you want to attract leaders, here is one thing you must do:

Hand out visions more than you assign tasks.

In order for the organization to be successful, you’ll need to attract leaders. You know that, right? You need to know something about leaders and potential leaders.

  • Leaders want to work towards a vision – a big vision, more than they want complete a set of tasks.
  • They don’t get excited about checklists and assignments.
  • Leaders want to join an adventure, then help develop their own tasks to accomplish it.
  • Real leaders get excited about faith-stretching, bigger-than-life, jaw-dropping acts of courage.

An organization that “gets it” attracts leaders.

“To do” lists often get in the way of that kind of fun. Visions excite people. The details to complete them don’t.

So, if you want to create a successful organization and recruit leaders hand people a big vision with lots of room for them to choose on the implementation side.

Of course, they may indeed need to create checklists. I would even suggest they do if I were coaching them. They will need measurable action plans. They need to have a list of assignments in order to complete a project successfully. All those are necessary to accomplish a worthy vision. A vision is simply an idea until someone puts legs to it so it can walk.

But start with the vision. Start with the big idea. Help people see what you hope to accomplish some day. Make sure you’re real clear about illustrating the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be seized.

Then get out of the way and let people figure out how they will accomplish the vision.

This doesn’t mean your work is over though. People will need your help along the way. They’ll still need your help to develop structure, discipline and follow through. But that’s way different than handing them a set of tasks in the beginning. And it’s practicing good leadership and delegation skills.

I realize this is especially hard for some leaders who may want to control the desired outcome. (Leaders often like me – just being honest.) You’ll have to take a risk on the people you’ve recruited to lead and discipline yourself to let them work in their own way.

And you will get burned a few times, but overall, you’ll find more success and attract leaders when you: 

Paint big visions – rather than give out specific tasks.

When you do this you’ll attract leaders and a more successful organization will be built and sustained.

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.

RELP – Episode 21 – 5 Steps When You’re Overwhelmed as a Leader

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about steps to take when you’re overwhelmed as a leader.

What do you do when you find yourself in that situation where you are overwhelmed with the changes needed? When the leadership challenges are overwhelming – and you don’t know if you can do all expected of you – what do you do?

I hope you can learn from my experience. Here we explore some steps I take when in a similar situation. (Which is often in leadership.)

In this episode, we discuss steps when you’re overwhelmed as a leader.

We are hearing from many leaders who are enjoying these podcast. We know they are simple. It is intended to be a quick listen to a conversation between father and son – (and in this one – father and friend) who are both struggling to figure out leadership in our individual contexts.

As always, I hope this episode helps you be a better leader.

Would you do me a favor? If you enjoyed listening to this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast would you subscribe, share and leave a positive review about this podcast? We are enjoying doing this together, but it is especially encouraging when we know it is helping other church leaders. Thank you in advance for doing this. It is a great help.

We will be recording more episodes soon. Let us know leadership issues you would like us to cover on future episodes.

Also be sure to check out all the great podcasts on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network.

10 Ways to Keep Being Favorite Pastor

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

Most pastors I know are like most people I know. They want to be liked. That is especially true for the people the church where they serve. Everyone likes being favorite pastor to someone. 

Yet, that’s hard to do.

Leadership expert Peter Drucker once said the hardest jobs in America (not necessarily in order) are President of the United States, university presidents, hospital administrators and pastors. I don’t know about most of those, but I talk to struggling pastors weekly. I can believe it makes the list.

Having been in the business and political worlds, and then as a pastor, I have a unique perspective. I can definitely say the hardest job I’ve ever done is being a pastor.

Every pastor I know wants to be successful in their Kingdom-building efforts. At the same time, they also want to be liked. No one likes to be unpopular. (Frankly, the desire to be so can even be the detriment in a pastor leading well.)

I was talking recently with another pastor how hard it is to pastor effectively and make everyone happy. (That’s especially true in 2020/21.) He admitted he was a people-pleaser. I tried to coach him on how impossible this will be long term. To illustrate the point in a humorous way, we began to cite examples of ways to keep people happy. It triggered this post.

So let me say this is written sarcastically.

And it was done so on purpose. Sometimes it’s easier to say the hard stuff if I say it in a humorous way. (Or at least what I think is funny.)

There are some serious issues addressed here that many pastors face. I want to be someone’s favorite pastor too, so I’m keeping it lighthearted in my approach.

In fairness, I have been blessed to serve in mostly healthy, supportive churches (at least we got there in time). Most of what I write now is to support other pastors who may not be.

10 ways to keep being favorite pastor:

Never turn down a social invitation – Sacrifice your family time. Ignore any actual Sabbath. (That command applies to your church, you should teach it, but you’re exempt.) It might ruin your family dynamic but you’ll keep the church happy.

Don’t talk about money – Jesus never did, right? Don’t be meddling in people’s personal business.

Never mention sex – Good Christians don’t. They just don’t. They don’t even think about it.

Stick to the sins the world is doing – Stick to things which everyone outside the church struggles with – or at least the ones we hide in the church. And don’t you dare mention mention things like gossip or gluttony. Those hit too close to home.

Don’t challenge the naysayers – You know the ones who don’t want any change for any sake – even for a Gospel, reaching people far from God sake. Let the power rest with those who are comfortable with status quo.

Preach messages people want to hear – You know, the “deeper” messages. But don’t you ever step on the toes of those who pay the bills around here.

Wear the right clothes – Dress like Jesus did, right?

Don’t mess with traditions – Especially the ones which were started by pastor so and so. If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it. And it ain’t broke if they are still comfortable with it.

Play everyone’s favorite music – Every Sunday. (You miracle worker.)

Don’t lead – just preach – Give your “best” message every Sunday, and don’t take people anywhere new. Leave all those principles of leadership and change in the business world.

On a serious note – pastoring is a tough job, but remember, our calling is not to be popular. It’s to be obedient. And not to a crowd, but to a King.

Finally, remember, when we are obedient, it can be the best job ever! (Of course, every job is when we are in the center of His will.)

Thanks for joining me in a little sarcastic humor. (Throwing that line in so maybe I can keep being someone’s favorite pastor.)

Join Nate and I for the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. And subscribe now, so you won’t miss the next one.