Crisis Leadership: 5 Things TO DO

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

In my last post, I shared 5 things not to do in times of crisis. I am writing this with the leader in mind, but I suspect they may be life applicable regardless of the crisis.

As stated, I began with the negative, because in my experience that’s where most people begin when crisis occurs. (Read: 5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis) We often tend to run in the opposite direction from where we should run. Some of the worst decisions I have observed people make (including me) are during the crisis-mode times of life.

Obviously knowing what to do in these times is equally important. How you respond and what you do will greatly determine future realities after the crisis has subsided.

Here are 5 things TO DO in times of crisis:

Stay. I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come. At the beginning of the crisis is not the time. Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course. Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times. Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. I share this from very hard personal experience. We sold a business — walking away simply to start over — and looking back we may have recovered had we suffered through it a little longer.

Stand. Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life. Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if those choices seem to be the quickest solutions. Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. You’ll be glad you did when the crisis is no longer a crisis.

Glean. Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be. Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently. And, most leaders who have led for any significant period of time have either endured through a crisis or, even if they failed miserably, learned valuable lessons they would do for the next crisis.

Examine. I said in my last post not to do this immediately. We tend as leaders to quickly want to blame someone — mostly ourselves. This is never a helpful process initially, but at some point you’ll need to ascertain how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again? If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something? Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world or things were out of our control. Don’t be afraid of that answer, but don’t default to it either. We all make mistakes and we have to own them.

Learn. Allow every crisis to teach you something about God, yourself and others. If you have this ambition and mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to suffering through it and dealing with it emotionally will be. God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and ultimately about Him.

I’ve got one more list to come about the times of crisis. And, It’s the one all of us in crisis want to get to eventually. Next post I will share 5 things to do after a crisis.

7 Ways To Make Really Fast Leadership Decisions

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

There are those moments in leadership when you have to make quick decisions. If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is that sometimes we just have to move forward with limited information.

Like every decision a leader makes, the decision impact others. These are decisions which are hard to make with plenty of time to make them. Decisions which will be hard to reverse. Decisions which you would usually spend days, weeks or months deciding – but the have to be made now. There is no choice.

You might wish you had more time to make them, but you don’t. Every leader I know has those moments. Unfortunately, the larger an organization grows the more they seem to occur.

During a pandemic, it hasn’t mattered how large or small an organization you lead, you simply had to act – and many times act NOW.

What do you do?

First, my experience is this is still a rare occurrence in leadership – or at least you should attempt to make it so. Many times we feel we have to move faster than we really do. My advice is to try not to make quick decisions any more than possible. Proverbs says, “haste makes mistakes”.

There are times, however, when, as a leader, you simply have to move forward. So, when you do, here are a few ways to make better quick decisions.

7 ways to make decisions fast:

Pray

Sentence prayers work. Ask God His opinion on the matter. He cares about the smallest details of your life. He may be doing something bigger than you can imagine, however, so He may allow you freedom to choose knowing that He will work things for an ultimate good. Ask for His input first though. And, part of this is developing a close enough relationship with God where if He’s trying to speak to you – you will know His voice in your life.

Check your boundaries

Hopefully you have certain lines you will not cross. Does this decision cross any of them? If so, wait. If not, you’re freer to move forward.

Take the emotion out of it

Emotional decisions are seldom rational decisions. Do I need to say this one again? If you haven’t considered the black and white decision, if there is one, do this first. As much as possible, try to remove your personal agenda and your emotional response from the answering of the question at hand.

Phone a friend

Moments like these are why you need people in your corner who can quickly speak truth into your life. I have a few friends who always take my call. Before I “pull the trigger”, I’m pushing the speed dial. God created us for community – and we are better when we operate within His plan.

Pull from past experiences

You may not have made this decision, but you’ve made other decisions in your life. Try to pull in as close a parallel as you can. Glean from your successes and your failures. Often times, God will build upon our past. He’s working from an established plan. Don’t forget this.

Don’t let fear dominate

Fear is always a part of decision making, especially if it involves a risk of any kind. Fear can sometimes be a protector, so don’t ignore it, but don’t let it be the dominate decider either. The hardest and scariest decisions are often the most needed.

Trust your gut

You’ve made good decisions before – haven’t you? Or even if you feel you haven’t, you probably learned from that experience. You will seldom be 100% certain about any decision. We usually have to act upon what we do know. We have a sense of right and wrong which allows us to know when we are making blatant errors. So, go with the gut when it says, “this is the right decision.” Many times you’ll be right. And if not, you’ll learn from that too.

Those are a few suggestions. Keep in mind, you will make mistakes this way. When you have to make quick decisions, you will get burnt at times. I’m not pretending you won’t.

But there are times where a quick decision is needed. When this happens it is called leadership. Don’t shy away from it simply because of the timing.

5 Voices Church Leaders Should Be Listening to Right Now

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

There is so much information today about COVID-19 and how the church needs to respond to it – especially going forward. I’ve been invited to more webinars than I can count. I receive new suggestions everyday. Recently, I asked some of our staff to listen to some of them and take notes to share. I simply couldn’t keep up with all of it. 

Who should we be listening to right now as church leaders? Certainly things are going to be different in the days ahead. What are the reliable sources of information? 

In my opinion, there are at least 5 voices we need in our life right now. There may be others, and I’m open to more suggestions, but these are the ones I’m trying to glean from as much as I can. 

5 Needed Voices for Church Leaders

God

I threw this one in because it’s true – always – but to starve off the naysayers when I don’t state the obvious. Of course, we should be listening to God during this pandemic – and every other season of our ministry. And His voice should override any other voices. I believe God would, however, also have us use our minds and discern wisdom from others. 

Government leaders

I’m trying to listen to leaders closest to our church. For us, this is our county and city mayors. Thankfully, both are godly men and are closely working together. I realize that’s unusual and may not be the case in your community. 

But local governments best understand our community and are attempting to guide us through this pandemic. They need our support. I have also communicated with our local sherif who has taken a very forward role in encouraging social distancing downtown – and we are a downtown church. Next for me is our state leadership and then federal leadership. 

I think “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s” applies here in principle. The context of your community and state (or even country for my international readers) may be different, but we can’t ignore our government leaders. Romans 13 teaches cooperation with our governing authorities. At the same time, God’s word commands us to gather and fellowship as a body of believers. That’s a very delicate balance of the two for all of us right now. Personally, I want to shepherd people well, but, as a large church with a long history, I also want to be a leader among our community and when we return to services. 

Other ministry leaders

I’m thankful for those who have time right now to reimagine things, as I’m busy trying to lead a local church. (And these are some of the ones I asked staff members to follow and take notes. You could do that with volunteers also.) 

Here are a few I’m especially paying attention to. I know all of these leaders personally and respect them first as individuals, but also for their advice and wisdom in this time: 

Carey Nieuwhof – Carey is always forward-thinking. He’s got a course on crisis leadership (and lots of other resources) I love that he’s partnering with David Kinnaman and Gloo to study the pulse of the church each week. 

William Vanderbloemen – Vanderbloemen has been gathering some great information throughout this crisis. And they are putting it out often in “real time” as information became available. Very helpful. 

Shawn Lovejoy – Shawn is one of the most genuine people I know. He really wants to help people. He’s been gathering pastors and leaders. 

Generis – Jim Shepherd, Brad Lewter, Dave Travis, Geoff Surratt and the whole team have been great resources through this crisis. 

Horizon Stewardship – I’ve been following Joe Park and his team on LinkedIn and they are posting good stuff. I just did a webinar with them. 

Church Answers – Thom Rainer is a thinker and researcher. He has put together a great team and they impact thousands of churches. I notice he has a webinar this week.

ECFA – I appreciate this organization for their credibility and guidance. They are a trusted and reliable source on issues of law and finance. 

ERLC – When it came to whether or not we should ethically apply for government relief funds, Russell Moore and his team were my most trusted voice. They are passionate about religious freedom. I know they always take a Biblical, but practical approach to issues. 

There are certainly others out there. Please feel free to add them in the comments and I may add to this post. I get nothing out of this post – no endorsement, no sponsorship fees, etc. Again, I know the people behind these personally and consider them friends. I trust them as individuals. 

Other church leaders

Here’s the reality. No one understands completely what you are going through as a pastor or church leader like another pastor or church leader. One reason, as a consultant, I always want to still have some role in the local church is so I don’t lose the relevancy of actually doing the work. A “go to” principle for me as a leader is “you can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit”. The ground always looks different when you are actually on the ground. We should glean all we can from those with the 10,000 foot view, but we should also be learning from our own peers. 

I have been getting with a couple of different pastor groups – one local and one composed of pastors from around the nation. It’s been my richest source for real practical application. You could form your own group of pastors. Share stories and pain. Learn from each other. 

Your gut

Here’s the deal. Your church is not like any other church. The community to which you minister is also unique. I often say to “the more your heart is following Jesus, the more you can trust your gut.” If you’re listening to the first voice I mentioned – God – and gleaning the best you can from the others, don’t stall with decision paralysis. You may simply have to make a call without all the answers. (That’s called faith.) 

Pastor, don’t be afraid to be the innovator. Now is not the time to shrink back. It’s a time to lead. Take the risks. Learn from the ground floor ministering to your people. See what is on their hearts and minds. What are the unique needs they have in this season? Many of these will be contextual to your community. 

And don’t forget you likely serve a larger audience today with your online presence. Some of these are right in your community. They may not have been involved in any church before, but they came looking for hope and you are meeting that need for them right now. Don’t ignore that when people start coming back to your buildings. 

I’m praying for you. By the way, I have room for some online coaching clients. Contact me for details. If I can help you, please let me know.

3 Questions Every Church Leader Needs to Ask NOW

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

As churches begin to prepare for re-opening our buildings, I think there are three important questions every church leader needs to ask. There are probably many more within each of these, but I like simplicity, so I’m limiting it to three.

I wrote previously about positives things which will be different after this pandemic crisis. Certainly, some things will never be the same. I think there are positives changes that will come from this as well.

If I were to come alongside of your church, (and I’m certainly happy to do that through my coaching ministry), I would help your staff or leadership think through each of these in a brainstorming session. You can certainly do this on your own.

3 questions every church leader should ask now:

What are we keeping?

There were likely things you added in this season that need to remain even after the crisis is over. Spend some time analyzing what has happened in this season that is good and can work in the future?

For our church, I think online Zoom meetings are here to stay. It’s an easy onboarding for people. It can help in-person Bible studies stay connected during the week. When someone is sick they can still be connected to the class.

This is just one example, but there are likely many others. Our YouTube channel will never be the same again. It’s going to be a huge part of how we communicate with our church.

We now have new methods of communicating with people. People are more comfortable with technology now than ever before.

Another thing I’ve been thinking we need to keep is how we introduce change. We made changes quickly in this environment. What are some changes you need to make, but didn’t feel the freedom to do prior to this time. You may be able to now more than you may think you can.

This crisis has reminded me that innovation can occur in any size church. I was saying this the entire time I was at Leadership Network. We used to look to big churches to bring forth change. Many smaller churches would learn from them and model after them. But disruption doesn’t just come from the largest churches anymore. If you have a computer and internet you can lead the way. Let’s not go backwards here. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Drive the way for others. 

What are we tweaking?

One example here is that some church bylaws need to be changed. In our case, we had to work around some of them just to make some decisions that had to be made. We need to consider how we function in things like governance and what “attendance” looks like according to our written and approved documents.

I would never encourage you to alter your messages, but when you are more online what you say sticks. It stays forever. In my previous church we had a large television audience. I just had to be mindful of that. It might mean you have to explain a story differently for people who aren’t familiar with it. You may have to explain when you do rituals or traditions that people “outside the room” wouldn’t understand. And we should always provide a message of hope, in my opinion, even when we are teaching on very difficult passages. People always need hope.

Online has been and may become even more a huge front door for the church. We should consider how we “shepherd” that opportunity. You may need to change who some of the volunteers you have are or where people serve. Some of your greeters may become “online hosts” for example.

What are we stopping?

This will be the hardest one. We tend to love holding on to programs and ways of doing things. But if you are going to put more energy and attention into new things, such as online involvement, then that energy will have to come from somewhere else. What are outdated programs that simply don’t work anymore? Are there things you’ve done in the past just because you’ve always done them? Now may be an opportunity to change them. You may have a freedom you’ve never been afforded.

While I don’t know when the opening of our churches will be, I’m optimistic it will happen in the next few months at least. The time to get prepared is now.

I’d love to hear your answers to any of these three in the comments. It would help all churches. I may share some of these ideas in a future post.

(BTW, I’ve got room for a few new virtual coaching clients. If you have interest, contact me for details.)

5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis

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

I think there are some positives for the church that will come through this Coronavirus crisis. 

Yes, there are tremendous negatives. The costs are mounting. Almost everything we currently count, other than online engagement, will likely be a loss for weeks and perhaps months to come. Budgets, attendance, and even volunteer hours will likely all be somewhat lower, simply because our routines have been disrupted.

That’s disheartening in many ways, just to be honest. Many pastors have worked for years to build to the place they are today; especially heading into the Easter season. 

Likely, in many ways, things will never be the same.

I’m not one who says nothing will ever be the same. I think we have a Biblical mandate to gather together as a church. Size isn’t dictated, but corporate worship is a command. Things might be altered, especially temporarily, but I think we will see people in our church buildings again someday. 

But some things will change for the foreseeable future. And the good news is that some of those changes will be positive. 

5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis: 

Crisis will allow change to happen faster. Churches have had to move fast in these days to make decisions. Even as an interim pastor in church revitalization, I’ve had to make some calls quickly before I could “get everyone on board”. No one has complained. In fact, people have been very appreciative recognizing that decisions needed to be made.

Of course, people will be people and power struggles will remain, but I suspect we will come out of this with far less concern with structure and more concerned with seeing the mission of the church succeed. This may be the day revitalization and church mergers happen even faster. Our buildings may be seen as more of an asset to reach our community than facilities for our own comfort and convenience. 

For churches willing to embrace this new reality we may be better able adapt and reposition quickly to meet the changing needs of our communities. 

Online and digital engagement will remain strong. Churches would be foolish to completely leave this opportunity after it’s no longer a necessity. I would even contend that it is necessary. We have had to do some things during this crisis that we should have been doing all along – reaching people where they already are. 

People are already online. They were before the crisis. They will be after it’s over. We have a mandate to “Go”. If we want to reach people we will have to “go” where they are. 

What we measure will change. Already, to measure our effectiveness as a church, we’ve started to place more emphasis on digital engagement, for example. This was not a church that necessarily measured that sort of thing. When you begin to value online metrics there are so many areas to consider. Facebook Live, website involvement, Zoom participation, and online reach are just a few of them. 

I realize a number of churches were doing this, but the church I am in now never paid attention, for example, that there were people engaging with the church from Romania. Or that a sizable number regularly watch services from places like Atlanta (300 miles away). New opportunities may present themselves when we look at different variables of engagement. 

No doubt we will still count the offering and the Sunday attendance, but I think we won’t see those as exclusive measures. Digital giving will be important even to the smallest churches. And, while it may still not be the preferred or most effective option, online participation will be seen as a legitimate means of making disciples. 

Human relationships will be valued more. You can’t replace a hug or a handshake virtually. I’m an introvert and it was into week two when I realized how much I missed interactions with people – beyond virtual. 

This is reminding us as a society that we are built for community. I love all the stories from places like Italy or New York where people are finding ways to engage outside their windows, even while social distancing. I wonder if we might go back to more front porches on our houses rather than decks hidden behind fences in our back yards. 

The church has an opportunity to build genuine community better than any organization. It’s part of our original design. May we never again confuse the simplicity of this basic human need for relationships with structured programs or traditions. 

Additionally, churches are coming together for their communities. Perhaps this will continue and some of the walls between churches in our communities will be lowered and we will do more together to truly be the Body of Christ in our communities.

Talking about faith will be more culturally acceptable. People have needed hope more in the last few weeks than in recent memory. The Church has the corner on providing a sense of faith and hope. 

I’ve seen less shaming online for people expressing their faith. I’m sure it’s still there, but it seems less prevalent in the feeds and posts I’ve encountered. I think we have been given a unique opportunity as a Church to truly live what we believe even more boldly than we may have in recent years. This could be our finest hour to let our lights shine. 

Those are just a few initial thoughts I’m processing. I naturally try to look for the positives. I know God has guaranteed His Church a place in our society. May we come through this crisis with that place more defined, at least in our minds, than before the crisis began. 

7 Tips to Navigate Emotions as a Pastor During COVID-19

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | One Comment

I’ve spoken with a number of pastors this week – and scheduled to talk to more this afternoon. While all my pastor friends are mostly remaining positive online and helping people remember to demonstrate faith over fear, some pastors are struggling too. When I left Leadership Network late last year I didn’t see entering into another pastorate this quickly or if ever. But here I am again. 

The personal problem

There’s a definite sense of loss for pastors. All the plans you worked so hard for Easter have suddenly been diminished. Buildings are mostly empty. We are preaching to near empty rooms. (Thankful for the worship and tech teams sticking around for us so far.) Our teams and volunteers are scattered. 

The church problem

All the while there is an incredible need to minister to people. Pastors know we have to continue to “be the church”. From my current perspective, the needs and burden to help people seem somewhat larger (and certainly harder) today than even a month ago. While people are stuck at home or stuck in care facilities, they still need care and concern expressed to them. Most of us had that figured out when we could gather people on Sundays and throughout the week. 

The future hope

I’m an optimist. In these days, I’ve been more of a cautious optimist, simply because none of us know what is going to happen. But there are tremendous opportunities being created and desperation is leading to innovation. I fully expect we will develop ministries and Gospel offerings to people that will advance the Gospel for years to come. That excites me. 

The cautious reality

Even those opportunities bring a certain amount of pressure on pastors. I only share this from my perspective, but frankly many of the voices saying how things will “never be the same” and how the church must completely change don’t seem to be currently pastoring at a local church. Of course, we should listen to and learn from them, but pastors have budgets and buildings we need to fill. Those are realities that aren’t ending immediately after this crisis. And context is king. We shouldn’t try to be another church.

So, bottom line, it’s tough. And because of that, some pastors are struggling. I said to our church recently, “it’s okay not to be okay sometimes.” That’s true for you too. My intent of this post is not to vent (although I need that too sometimes). I only hope to help a group of people I’ve grown to love and respect – pastors. 

If I were advising you as I would a member of our church going through crisis, my advice might be about the same. 

Here are 7 suggestions for navigating your emotions during this crisis: 

Recognize the sense of loss. Don’t ignore it. This hurts. Something is missing from your life right now, just as it is for the people God called you to shepherd. Don’t overlook your own feelings and emotions even as you minister to others. 

(On a completely personal note, I’m pastoring at my home church. They were in need of revitalization. I came into this so motivated and excited about helping the church. All those plans changed suddenly after only a few weeks on the job. That’s a loss.) 

Grieve.  We don’t grieve like the rest of the world, but we should grieve. Every loss deserves a grief period. Grieving has stages. And they are different for everyone. Some mornings you may wake up confused. Other days you may be angry. Still others you may have an incredible burst of energy and enthusiasm – and you’re not even sure why. All those can be natural. 

Exercise. I encourage maintaining health all the time for leaders. The busier and more stressed you are the more important it becomes. If you’re past few weeks are like mine then you’re in one of those seasons – and you need to be exercising. Regularly. Take time to get outside and walk. Find ways to do a workout indoors too. There are plenty of apps and resources online to keep you fit during this time.

Stay close to other pastors. I have found this especially helpful for me. This is not because misery deserves company, but another thing I say in leadership is “you can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit”. That’s so true in this scenario. That first day everyone was looking to me as to whether to take services online was one of the most stressful I’ve had in a while. Huge decision. Talking to other pastors through it helped. 

Protect your Sabbath. The Sabbath isn’t just a command for the church where you serve. It’s vital for you as well. Plus, if you have children at home you need to spend time with your children. And if you’re married with your spouse. They are likely struggling with isolation too. Pastor, you don’t have to work all the time. Your family needs you too. Protect what will definitely be there after this crisis. 

Find ways to laugh. I’ve had a few good belly laughs lately and thy have been so life-giving. Most of them were at my own expense making “bloopers” while trying to do a video. (I’m sure there’s a blooper video in the works by our creative team.) If needed, Google some clean comedy and take a mental break. A good Seinfeld episode often works for me too. 

Dream about the new future. Yes, it will look different. Again, it will have to be contextualized for your church. But God has made promises for His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This includes the coronavirus. We will get back to doing church again. 

What might that look like? This is where there are tremendous Kingdom-building ministries who serve the church and are thinking “for us” right now. I’m grateful for them. (I may do a separate post with some of these resources I’m following.) I’m thankful that we can concentrate on ministering to our churches while they help us think “what’s next”, but we should spend some time doing this too. We know our context like no one else does. 

Pastor, I say this humbly to you, but none of the future talk matters if you don’t protect your soul. We will need you to be strong after this crisis as much as we need you through it. I’m praying for you. Please let me know if I can help. Lastly, get professional help if needed. There’s no shame in that.

7 Barriers to Growth Every Leader Needs to Eliminate Today

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

As a consultant and senior leader, I have had multiple opportunities to come into a church or organization, assess where things are, identify barriers to growth, and offer suggestions to address them. 

(This type thinking actually fuels me as a leader, so let me know if I can help you.) 

It might appear that change is a difficult process in helping an organization grow again. And certainly it is a difficult part. Change is always hard. But in my experience, often identifying the things that need to be changed most and when to change them is the harder decision. 

And there are several reasons why, even leaders who want change have a hard time determining what needs changing: 

  • Leaders tend to get comfortable with the way things are being done. 
  • Just like the people they lead, they become protective of the way things operate. 
  • After something is done a certain way long enough it’s hard to see how they are barriers stalling growth. They are just “normal”. 

Here are 7 common barriers I’ve seen that every leader needs to eliminate today: 

The lid of capacity. As leaders, we often set an unwritten limit to where people can go within the organization. The lines of authority sometimes dictate where ideas can originate or who is involved in strategic-thinking. Some of the best ideas are not even welcomed simply because there is not a clear avenue for them to be shared. 

This may need to be the subject of another post, but one example of how I have tried to address this lid is with what I call “focus groups”. Whenever we are stalled in an area of ministry, I like to invite different voices to brainstorm and develop new ideas. New people always bring new capacity. 

A culture of fear. When people are afraid of making a mistake they are less likely to take a risk. Leaders must create cultures where even failure is embraced as a tool for discovering new insights. 

One way I have attempted this is by calling new initiatives an “experiment”. Make it known up front we are trying something and we aren’t sure if it will work. 

The absence of hope. You don’t even try where things appear to be hopeless. In the darkest of days, the leader should provide hope that the future will be bright. 

In most every sermon message and every staff or church-wide meeting, I try to paint a picture of hope for people. The world is full of naysayers and doomsayers. We need to be agents of hope. 

The limitations of resources. Granted this takes creativity, especially when finances are stretched, but always hearing “we can’t afford that” or “we aren’t big enough to do that” is never motivating to a team. 

I wrote a post on innovative ways to develop people, as an example. One way I address this lid is by continually asking this question such as: What would we do if the life of this ministry depends on doing something new, but there were no resources to do so? With good leadership desperation can often lead to innovation. 

Burdensome bureaucracies. Structure is good. We need good managers and good guidelines to keep us legal and accountable. When structure begins to get in the way of progress it needs to change. 

This is probably one I challenge the most as a leader. Partly this is because I’m not a good rule-follower. Mostly it is because I have seen this one cause the most limitations to growth in established churches. 

The vision-less organization. Where are you going and why are you going there? People will work to achieve things they can understand the why and they believe in it.

The leader must continually be sharing the why behind the decisions being made. I try to do this every time I assign a task or make a request of someone on our team. 

(By the way, sharing the vision often forces the leader to ask hard questions too. Sometimes you end up realizing there’s not a good why. When that is the case, perhaps you don’t even need to do it. Now you have time to do something else.) 

Meaningless meetings. Most people have more to do than sit in a meeting that only happened because it appears regularly on a calendar. And when they are forced to do so it keeps them from doing more productive things. 

Get rid of meetings just to meet. One thing I try not to keep the same standing meeting schedules for too long. Being willing to review when we meet and why, at least on an annual basis, keeps things fresher, helps ensure the right people are in the room and makes meetings more effective. (This includes keeping me out of meetings where I’m simply not needed.) 

These are a few barriers I’ve observed and continually try to address in organizations where I lead. Again, I’d love to come help your team analyze and address some of these. Let me know if I can help. 

All Good Leaders Do 2 Things

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

There are two things all good leaders do for their team. These are vital if you want to lead a healthy team.

They help their team say yes.

Good leaders give their team the freedom to dream. They empower the team to take their ministry in new directions. Risks are encouraged without fear of retribution if it doesn’t work.

Good leaders make sure they aren’t so distracted with mindless and burdensome tasks, so they can pursue the things which spark their interest. They help their team move swiftly when change is needed and encourage the team to be proactive rather than reactive. 

And when team members do things differently than the leader would, the leader looks to see if the vision is being attained. If it is, then the leader submits to the leadership of the team. 

They help their team say no.

The team can’t do everything. Neither can the leader. People are limited. Everyone is limited.

All of us can easily get distracted by seemingly good things and fail to do the best things. Good leaders give their team the authority to say no when the opportunity doesn’t align with the vision, they simply can’t complete it with all their other demands, or it is outside their ability to do it well.

And when there is backlash for the decision, good leaders defend their team. Every single time. 

(Granted, some team members will take advantage of this second one. They will always say no. In those cases, we handle the problem with that person individually. And we don’t use them as a reason to create unnecessary rules for everyone else.) 

Leader, does your team have freedom to say yes and no? What could you do to help them more?

5 Guarantees of Your First Year in Senior Leadership

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The way you begin a leadership position often determines the success you will have in it. 

That’s such a strong, but important word for new leaders to understand. Having begun new leadership positions many times in my career, I have learned the opening days always impact the effectiveness I have had as a leader. 

And, to top it off, there are things that will naturally happen in the first year of a new position. In fact, I can pretty much offer guarantees about your first year as a new senior leader. They have been true for me every time. 

Here are 5 Guarantees for Your First Year of Senior Leadership:

It won’t be all you thought it would be. 

There will be surprises. Things won’t be exactly as you were told by the people who recruited/hired you. That’s not always their fault. Most haven’t really sit in the position before. I like to say, “You can’t see what I see until you sit where I sit.” That’s true of those who brought you into the position. 

Plus, I have come to believe search committees, teams, boards, recruiters, etc. are better at “selling” the job than they are at pointing out the problems you will face. I’m not saying they are misleading (although some have been in my experience), but they have a position to fill. They paint things in the most positive way possible. It takes a while, but you’ll figure out what they didn’t share with you in the interview process. 

There will be quiet supporters and loud objectors. 

And everyone in between. I’ve learned that some of the people who support my leadership the most simply didn’t take the time to tell me until something happened and they felt the need to do so. But there will be people who have no problem letting you know what they don’t agree with. Some will even let you know with in ALL CAPS. (Those are the best – sarcastically speaking.) 

But most people are just waiting for good leadership. They will go whichever way the vision is well cast. My best advice is to find a few positive influencers and lead with their help and encouragement.

Some things will be harder to change than others. 

And it will take time to discover those things. Many times we enter a new position with newcomer enthusiasm. We have big ideas and the momentum is often present in the beginning to pursue them. Over time the real DNA of the organization that you didn’t understand becomes reality. There will be culturally unwritten rules you never knew and sacred cows, which get in the way of your ideas.

This doesn’t mean you can’t change these, but you will need to be aware of them and how to navigate through them. This always involves asking good questions and listening before you attempt change.

You’ll be misunderstood. 

People don’t yet know you. They may like you, because you’re new, but they don’t have a full grasp of how you’re wired, what you are most passionate about, the things that make you smile or your pet peeves. (And we all have some.)

If something is not clear to people, they will make up their own clarity. They will believe what they want to believe. This makes communication in the first year even more important. You have to continually help people discover how you think and what you are thinking. 

You’ll question yourself. 

I don’t know many senior leaders, especially in the early days of a leadership position, who don’t have occasions where they wonder if they have what it takes to do all they need or want to do. That’s perfectly normal. And if you don’t know this on the front end you’ll think something is wrong with you.

My guess is you wouldn’t have the position if you weren’t qualified. 

Make sure you have people who can speak into your life and remind you of your calling and your abilities. And, of course, as faith leaders we are ultimately to be reliant on God’s strength through us more than our own abilities. 

I could add a final one. You’ll need help. I have had so many transitions in my leadership career. I would love to offer my consulting/coaching services to help you transition and begin well in a new leadership position. Contact me for details and I’ll share more later on this new offering. 

7 Characteristics of Cowardly Leadership

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You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz, don’t you? He was supposed to be the king of the jungle, but he had no courage.

I’ve known some leaders like the cowardly lion. I’ve written in a previous post about courageous leadership. It seems a counter post is warranted. And if I’m completely transparent — at times that coward has been me.

Let’s face it. Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. Leadership takes courage.

You have no doubt encountered cowardly leaders. Perhaps would even admit you’ve been one too.

Here are 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership:

Say what people want to hear. The might say, for example, “I’ll think about it” rather than “No” – even no is already the decided answer. I get it. It’s easier. But the ease is only temporary and only comes back to haunt you later.

These leaders are also notorious for saying one thing to one person and another to someone else. They want everyone to like them.

Avoids conflict. In every relationship there will be conflict. In fact, healthy conflict is a necessary part of keeping relationships strong. When the leader avoids conflict the entire organization avoids it. Hidden or ignored problems are never addressed.

Never willing to make the hard decisions. Leaders don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They don’t even have to be the one with the most experience. Leaders do have to be able to make the decisions no one else is willing to make.

Pretends everything is okay – even when they are not. When everything is amazing nothing really is. Cowardly leaders gloss over the real problems in the organization. They refuse to address them either because they fear don’t know how or their pride gets in the way.

Bails on the team when things become difficult. I’ll have to admit this has been me. I’ve written about it before, but when I was in business, and things were difficult, it was easier to disappear than face the issues. The learning experience was once I checked-out or when I was disappearing so was my team.

Courageous leaders are on the frontline during the most difficult days, leading everyone through the storm.

Refuses to back up team members. No one wants to serve someone who will not protect them or have their back. People need to know if they make mistakes there is a leader who still support them and can help them do better the next time.

Caves in to criticism. Make any decision and a leader will receive criticism. Even if it is unfounded cowardly leaders fall apart when people complain. They take it personal or refuse to see any value in it. These leaders see every criticism as a threat against their leadership rather then another way to learn and grow.

What would you add to my list?

Let’s be leaders of courage. In fact, I believe courage might need to be in our definition of leadership.

Do you find it scary to be a leader sometimes? What’s the scariest time you face as a leader?