12 Bible Verses to Encourage Christian Leaders

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The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart so I might not sin against you.” God’s Word can be a protection for our heart and soul. It can teach us, convict us, and challenge us.

The same is true for Christian leaders. The best leadership book is the Bible.

Here are 12 great Bible verses for Christian leaders:

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

How much more successful would our organizations be if all of us approached each other in this way? Leaders, the culture of teams we lead will be greatly shaped by the example we set for them.

Philippians 2:3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

I’m convinced humility might be the most attractive leadership quality there is these days.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Leadership is ultimately a product of the heart we have for others and the vision we’ve been called to lead. The heart impacts passion, motivation and tenacity.

Exodus 18:21 You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of 10, 50, 100, and 1,000.

Don’t try to do it all. Surround yourself with capable people of integrity – empower, delegate – and get out of their way and let them lead.

Psalm 78:72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

I love the imagery of a shepherd as leader. My friend, Larry Osborne, wrote a great book about the subject.

Matthew 20:26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.

Great leaders see it as their main ambition to help others achieve worthy goals they might not achieve on their own. “When you win, I win, and we all win!”

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

It can’t only be “my way”. Leaders must be open to listening to the desires of others and incorporating them into the overall goals and objectives of the organization.

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Genuine honesty and transparency in leadership is rare, but so, so valuable – and effective.

John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.

Biblical leaders recognize the ultimately glory belongs to God.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I have seen many leaders give up on something just before there would have been a turnaround – whether on a project, a passion or a person. Looking back on my leadership career I’ve done this many times.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

On days you are discouraged, overwhelmed, or feel everything is a loss – remember God is with you. He is walking beside you. Nothing is impossible with God.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Leadership is hard. Don’t attempt it alone.

Challenge:

Perhaps you should choose one or two of these – write them down somewhere you’ll see them often, and commit them to memory.

What other verses would you recommend to leaders?

7 Misunderstandings of the Leadership Vacuum

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

Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead.

The best leaders avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

I once watched as a church crumbled apart while the pastor thought everything was wonderful. He always had an excuse for declining numbers and never welcomed input from others. Eventually the church asked him to leave. It was messy and could have been avoided, in my opinion.

Sadly, this could be the stories of hundreds of churches and organizations.

I call that the leadership vacuum. 

I have heard the term leadership vacuum used to describe the need for more leaders, but I believe the biggest void may be within leaders themselves.

The leader in a vacuum believes:

Everyone on the team understands me. It can be equally as dangerous if the leader believes they understand everyone on the team. Healthy team dynamics require a constant discovery of others, asking questions, exploring who people are and where they are currently in their thought processes.

Everyone on the team thinks like I think. The fact is, especially if it is a healthy team, everyone thinks differently. Remembering this and using it to the advantage of the team is a key to good leadership.

Everyone on the team likes me. Being the leader is not a guarantee of popularity. There is a level of respect which a position of leadership brings, but likability is based on the person – not the job title.

My team is completely healthy. We all like to think so, and we like to think we are healthy as leaders. The truth is health is often a relative term. Teams and leaders go through seasons of good and bad and a constant awareness of where we are at any given time is critical to maintain health long-term.

They couldn’t do it without me. Pride goes before the fall. Humility is not only an attractive character trait in leadership – it’s necessary for sustainability.

We don’t need any changes. Change is a part of life and a part of every organization. Where there is no change there will soon be decline – and gradual death. Good leaders are good change agents.

Nothing can stop us now. The very moment we think we’ve “made it” we are set up for failure.

When the leader is clueless to the real problems and needs in the organization, he or she is living in the leadership vacuum. The best leaders are aware of the vacuum trap and guard against it in their leadership.

7 Dangers for the Isolated Leader

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I was coaching a pastor trying to help a church grow again. The previous pastor left town after a series of bad decisions – some decisions the church is still finding out about each new day.

I was happy to help the new pastor, but I also had concern was for the pastor who flamed out too early. He didn’t finish well, left the church in a state of disarray and is now struggling to recover. 

Sadly, I see it all the time. From the stories I heard, I suspect this former pastor suffered from the same temptation any pastor faces. His number one problem, in my opinion wasn’t a lack of leadership ability. He was leading in isolation.

He had no one on the inside of his life who knew him well enough to know when something was wrong and could confront him when necessary.

There are so many clear dangers in leading in isolation.

7 dangers of leading in isolation:

Moral failure

Without accountability in place, many of us will make bad decisions, because no one appears to be looking. We are more susceptible to temptation when we are alone.

Burnout

We are made for community. There is an energy we gain from sharing life with other people. When the leader feels he or she is alone the likelihood of burning out, emotional stress and even depression increases. (If this is you, read THIS POST.)

Leadership Vacuum

The leader is clueless to the real problems in the organization and is fooled into believing everything (including the leader) is wonderful.

Control Freak

The leader panics when others question him or her. He or she tries to control every decision. They don’t want to be found out for not knowing all the answers.

Limits other people 

The leader in isolation fails to communicate, invest, and release, which keeps other leaders from developing on the team. And, therefore, the organization isn’t prepared when the leader does exit. 

Limits leader

The isolated leader never reaches his or her full potential as a leader, because they shut out influences, which would actually help them grow.

Limits the organization

In the end, the leader who leads in isolation keeps the organization from being all it can be. The leader sets the bar of how far an organization can go. If the leader is in isolation the organization will stifle.

Leader, are you living in isolation? Be honest.

Do you need to get out of the protective shell you’ve made for yourself?

The health and future success of your organization depends on it.

(I realize many pastors of smaller or rural churches feel they have no option, but to lead in isolation. But as hard as it may seem, and as great as the risk may appear, you must find a few people to share your struggles. I also have a reasonably-priced coaching offer. Let me know if you want more details.)

My “System” For Handling Difficult People in the Church

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I was talking with a pastor that I coach recently. He asked me how I handle difficult people in the church. I assured him I didn’t know what he was talking about. I’ve never encountered any difficult people in the church. 

After a good laugh, I explained my “system” for dealing with difficult people, which has developed over years of leading. I never put words around them, but those words came to me as we talked. 

Here is my three part “system” for dealing with difficult people:

Love them

I think we have to start here as people of faith. We are called to love everyone. Yes, it is hard sometimes to love extremely difficult people. Frankly, I’ve encountered people in the church I would even label “mean”. There have been a few I’ve sincerely questioned their salvation at times. I don’t know how a Christian could talk to people or about people as I’ve heard some do. 

But I l have learned, especially in church revitalization work, that if I can’t love people I can’t lead them. Jesus even told us to love our enemies, didn’t He? Years ago, the Lord gently nudged me that if I’m loving Him as I should be I will love everyone in our church. So, in every church where I’ve served, I’ve almost had a standard-bearer for this principle. I know if I’m not able to love them I need to check my heart.

And I should mention that part of loving people is listening to them – with the intent to understand. Many times difficult people just want to be heard.  

Level with them

I have learned not to sugarcoat or gloss over difficult people’s actions. I’m not loving people if I allow them to act in unbiblical ways. Instead, I need to be honest with them. I view it as a part of discipleship. I have had to say to people, “Did you know the tone of your emails are harsh?” I’ve had to challenge some people who verbally attack a staff member. 

One New Testament theme appears to me to be unity in the Body. I am not afraid, therefore to challenge gossipers, harsh attitudes or power mongering if it is going to be disruptive to the church and its mission.  

Lead them

Obviously, Jesus is the leader of the church, but He has empowered some of us to serve in leadership positions. I know part of my role is to move people in a direction towards our mission. As pastor, I can’t allow a few difficult people to hijack the church or it’s progress. I’m not at all claiming that is easy, and it takes years of learning to do this well, but the work of the church is too important not to lead the church forward in advancing the Gospel. 

That’s an overview of how I deal with difficult people. Hope it helps you. 

(By the way, I’m opening some new opportunities in my calendar to coach and consult. If you want to talk about how I might help you or your church/organization, please email me at Ron.edmondson@gmail.com)  

3 Things to Know About The Future of Church Staffing

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(This is a guest post written by my friend Matt Lombardi. Matt has launched a new company called Shaar that I believe has great potential to help churches and ministers, by providing freelancers for every area of ministry. Check them out HERE.)

If you’re a pastor, I’m positive you’ve been bombarded with more articles and resources about reopening than you can read in the next 5 years. Your services are infinitely more complicated, but you’re still being pressured to maintain an online presence. And there are also millions of articles on that, if you’re interested.

If you feel like you are working double time, you are. You are effectively running two Churches.

We are all still in ministry for the same reasons: Spread the Good News. Make disciples. While the “Why” of the Church has not changed, the “How” certainly has. 

So how is the Church going to function in the future?

Here are 3 things to consider to help you put that into perspective. 

1. The future is online.

If you haven’t given much thought to how you stream your services, use social media or create content to be viewed online, you should probably start. These things are likely going to expand. This is an opportunity for the Church. 

People can engage with our Church from all over the world. They can interact with the Church on a daily basis. People can connect with the message of Christ in a variety of ways. 

You might find your employees online or find freelance work online. There may even be interviews online via video before people ever come into your Church. You might look up your candidate’s LinkedIn profile instead of their resume. 

2. The future is distributed. 

Distributed means that your team may not all work from the same place. Some or all of your team might be remote.

Distributed means that the Church receptionist may take calls for the Church while she’s home with her kids. Remote meetings might happen on a video conference instead of in person. Much of the work that people did sitting at a desk in the Church, they will do from their home office or the kitchen table or the park. 

Distributed means that the Church can fully function and fulfill its mission without meeting in person. That’s not to say the Church won’t meet in person. It means that someone who would not be able to attend your physical meetings could find your Church online and be fed without needing to step into the building. 

3. The future is project-based.

This may sound like a weird one.

Things like websites, graphics, social media posts, videos, podcasts and written content are being used to accomplish the mission of the Church. Preparation for a video is different than when you just show up to preach a sermon. There is an extra workflow that needs to happen to complete that project. 

While Churches will always need pastors and support leadership, they may not be able to afford someone on staff to deal with the project needs of the Church. That’s where the gig economy comes to the Church’s rescue with freelance solutions. When you have a project, you outsource it to get exactly what you need done by a professional in that field.

Recently our team at Shaar launched a huge study into the Future of Church Staffing. We’re looking at trends in how the church will “go to work” in the days ahead. Shaar is diving deeper into topics like remote work, how churches look to staff up in the digital space, and how churches prioritize tech-driven skill sets. By the way, we are randomly giving away Amazon gift cards to participants.

To participate in the study, follow THIS LINK.

The Fine Print of Ministry Leadership – What they CAN’T Teach in Seminary

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“The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” Deuteronomy 29:29

Make your plans.

Work your plans.

That’s good leadership.

I’m an advocate of strategic leadership. I don’t believe the church should run from leadership. We need it, just as does any other organization of people. God uses men and women to lead His people. You can see it throughout the Bible.

Without a vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

In his heart a man plans his course. (Proverbs 16:9)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost“? (Luke 14:28)

“Aaron and Moses were from this tribe. And they are the men the Lord spoke to and said, “Lead my people out of Israel in groups.” (Exodus 6:26)

With the best you know how to hear from God, make plans accordingly. God really does use the minds He created for His glory.

But make all the great plans you want and if you’re a leader you should know the “secret things belong to God“.

I’ve always loved the Deuteronomy verse because it comes at the end of God renewing His covenant with His people. He promises to be with them, bless them and carry them safely forward as they obey Him.

At the end of His encouragement, we find this verse. The secret things belong to God.

Isn’t that true in your life?

If this year has taught us anything as leaders it is that we can’t prepare for every thing that will happen in our leadership. Seminary (or graduate school) couldn’t adequately prepare us for this. Every day is a new opportunity for something unusual to happen.

I’m working my plans – the best I know how – and seemingly out of no where God allows a surprise to come my way. I didn’t see it coming.

I must adapt accordingly. It’s scary. Uncomfortable. It stretches me.

But, after the dust settles and I’m allowed to lift my head long enough, I see where He was always working. It has been in those secret moments where God has always seemed to do some if His best work in my life. I am reminded again that His strength is perfect in my weakness.

Christian leader, always be attentive to the still small voice and give God room to interrupt your plans. Always. Don’t be afraid of the fine print of the Christian life. Some of God’s best work for us is found there.

The People Doing the Work – A Leadership Principle

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I have a number of pet peeves in leadership. Leadership is hard. But there are some principles in leadership, which simply need to be adhered to for good leadership.

Let me share a story as an illustration of one of my pet peeves.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me who to place on my team. He told me how to conduct sales meetings with my department. Then he told me what each person’s assignments would be. Finally, he told me how to conduct the meeting – going as far as to write out my agenda.

He wasn’t going to be at the meeting. In fact, he didn’t actually know the people on my team. He was holding me accountable for results in sales, yet he continually gave me a script for how to do my job. I had to turn in reports, which indicated I had followed his agenda.

I hated it. It made me feel so controlled. My team, with whom I was very open and honest, were frustrated. And I can say this now, but when I could, I secretly altered things to script my own way. Maybe it was rebellion – okay, it was rebellion, but I never thought he was practicing good leadership. And I experienced direct results in employee morale. (I eventually quit.)

Here’s the principle, which developed from this experience.

If you aren’t going to be doing the work, don’t script how it’s done.

As a leader, you can share what you want accomplished. That’s vision-casting.

You can set reasonable boundaries. This actually helps fuel creativity.

You can share your thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful. You probably have good ones.

You can monitor progress. This is your responsibility.

You should hold people accountable for progress. It ensures completion.

But the people who are actually doing the work

The ones carrying out the plans – Getting their hands dirty –

Should determine how the actual work gets completed.

8 Things That Kill Motivation and Momentum

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

I have found that regardless of how motivated I am, if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

This is why it is important a leader learns to recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

And here’s the greater reason.

Motivation is often a catalyst for momentum.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team, in my opinion, than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and, ultimately, momentum:

Routine – When people have to do the same activity repeatedly for too long they eventually lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Allowing people to change how they do the work needs to be a built-in part of the organization.

Fear – When people are afraid, they stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort and stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, lessening control and celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. When leaders begin to recognize this they should provide new opportunities and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know what a win looks like – according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. As leaders, we should continually pause to make sure our team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure – Some people can’t get past a failure. As leaders, we sometimes fail to accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build motivation. As a person strives to recover, lessons are learned, which can help the team.

Apathy – A team that loses their passion for the vision will experience a decline in motivation. That’s why leaders must consistently cast vision. Leader, you should be a cheerleader; encouraging others with a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they can’t maintain motivation. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. Everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels their contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. In fact, we fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this makes it hard or, at times, too late to fully recover.

7 Suggestions for 50+ Year-Old Leaders to Find a Second Wind

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership, Life Plan | 9 Comments

Here’s a reality I came to a year of so ago. We have placed so much energy investing in the next generation of leaders that we’ve left a ton of leaders my age wondering how to remain relevant and useful. 

Several experiences led to this discovery. Here’s one example. 

Personal.

I am 56 years old and hope to work at least another 15 years. And I said “at least”. If I’m going strong I hope to go even longer. 

A chance encounter.

I was at a conference representing Leadership Network. We were doing good stuff working with the next generation of leaders. We had just announced a new initiative with a super-sharp millennial group. I believed in it and was excited about it.

After a session, I was stopped by a pastor about my age. He posed a serious question. He commented on the new millennial group and then asked, “What about me? I’m 55. Who’s going to help me figure out the next phase of my life? I’m not ready to talk about transition. Do I need to get some skinny jeans or what?” 

Wow! His question stung a little. He was only semi-joking.

It stung in two ways. First, because we are the same age. Second, he was right. Most of our energy as an organization – and really Kingdom-wide – was/is on the next generation of leaders. Again, I believe in it, but many pastors and leaders our age and older still have an incredible amount to offer. 

We could expect them to be mentors now – simply give back – and while they certainly should all of us need people pouring into us – at every age. (And, likewise, we all need to be pouring into others.)

So, I told him to get some skinny jeans. Just kidding. Please don’t.

But that conversation started a new ministry in my mind. I began calling it “Second Wind Ministry“. I actually own a domain by that name.

I’ve helped lots of churches find their “second wind” through church revitalization. Could I actually help some leaders do the same? 

Here’s the deal. Many people my age – and older – aren’t looking at transition yet. They aren’t thinking succession yet. We probably should be, but we are thinking more about how to finish strong.  

Like my pastor friend, I want to ramp up not slow down.

I was sharing these thoughts with a 70 year-old man in ministry and he said, “Heck, I’m 70 and I think I feel I’m just getting started.” That’s who I want to be in 14 more years. 

I’m still getting started with this second wind ministry idea, but let me share some initial thoughts. 

Here are 7 suggestions for finding your second wind: 

Admit the need.

You’re not as “relevant” as you used to be. That’s okay. In actuality, you’re likely relevant in some ways you can’t even imagine. You have things to offer the world you didn’t have 20 years ago. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.

Know who you are.

Don’t try to be anyone other than you. This is a season where you have tested a few things. You’ve had failure and success. What were you good at doing? Where did you stink? Hone your best skills. You were uniquely designed for a definite purpose. You’ve likely taught that principle to others. Discover and live it for yourself.

Keep learning new things.

Always be teachable and always be learning. Even more than ever before, if you’re not reinventing yourself every few years you’re behind. Commit to learn something new. 

Personally, I hope to be a life-long learner. I have two masters degrees and am hoping to finally finish my doctoral dissertation in the next year. Then I want to learn to speak another language. Stretch your mind. 

Become a people-builder.

You have something to give back. Invest what you’ve learned in others. Celebrate other people’s success. The fact is the more you share what you know with others the more valuable you become to all of us. It truly is your “best life”. 

Plan your legacy.

How will you be remembered? More importantly, how do you want to remembered? How close are those answers to each other? If they’re not close enough what changes do you need to make now to bring them closer?

My father made some mistakes in life. He spent the last couple of years of his life intentionally trying to make right all his close relationships. That tremendously improved his legacy in my mind. 

Take some new risks.

I said earlier we all need mentors. One of mine is 82 years old. He is still going strong. When he was 80 he was talking about a new business he wanted to start. He’s still “working on it” today. He sat with me recently and asked what we could do radically different to impact the Kingdom. That’s who I want to be when I grow up someday. 

Leave when it’s time.

This is the hardest one to write, but sometimes we stay too long. I can’t tell you how many stories I know of pastors and leaders who think they should have left a few years earlier. 

By the way, that doesn’t mean they should do nothing. It could mean they do something their whole life has prepared them to do. They couldn’t have done it without the years of experience – success and failures – that have shaped them into who they are today. 

Second wind ministry.

I know there’s a need. If my coaching/consulting can help you think through finding your second wind – at your church or personally – please let me know. 

A Secret Learned in Church Revitalization – (This is HUGE)

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

Some of the most vocal opponents to changes we made in church revitalization were simply rule-followers. That’s huge insight. Don’t miss this. 

These people liked to know we were obeying the written and approved structure of the church. When we didn’t follow them exactly they objected. Sometimes loudly. Often in ALL CAPS.

Let me give you one example. (I’m changing a couple of minor details just to protect identities, but the story is true and principles the same.)

I once wanted to hire a staff member. Personally, I believe the senior pastor should be able to build a team. I realize rules don’t always accommodate that, but this was a church in need of serious revitalization. The only way I could see forward was to have some new faces on the team.

The “rules” of the church (some of them unwritten) said I had to form a committee, begin a search process, take the final candidate to the personnel committee, then deacons, then set up interviews with the church, and then get a church vote. (I’m exhausted just typing all that – and we’ve likely lost a good candidate at this point.) 

This job required unique skills. I knew from experience it would not be an easy position to fill and time was of the essence. Plus, I had someone very qualified I was ready to hire. 

I convinced leadership to move forward and we hired the person. 

And that is when we discovered the objectors. Granted, it was from a few people, but they were very vocal. The most frequent complaint was the ole familiar, “We’ve never done things like that before.” They didn’t think we were following the written (or sometimes unwritten) rules. 

That’s when I discovered the secret. 

Here’s the story to explain how: 

I had one guy who carried the policy manual for hiring procedures in his suit coat pocket on Sunday mornings. (It was thick, so it was hard to hide.) One day, after several tense encounters about the hire we had made, I had a revelation. He kept mentioning those policies. So, I asked him, “George (not his real name), are you upset because of who we hired or because of the way we hired him?” 

He then told me he was upset because we hadn’t followed the rules. I then asked him, “George, so if we changed the rules to the way we just did this hire and then hired someone else you’d be okay?” He said, “Yes, because that would be the rules.” 

Then it hit me. This is the HUGE secret. 

Many times the objectors to change aren’t objecting to the change. They are simply objecting to the fact that you aren’t following the rules.

Often if you change the rules and – and follow them – they’ll support you.

Maybe you don’t need to complain about the rules you have – or try to go around them – perhaps you simply need to write better rules. 

And when you do – people may better support the change. 

Granted, this won’t be the case every time, but since this occasion I’ve found it to be so a number of times. It’s certainly worth considering.