5 Suggestions if You want People to Listen to You

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

If you are a leader, then it is critically important that the people you are trying to lead hear you. Not just pretend to be listening while you ramble in a meeting, but actually absorb what you are trying to say to them. You want people to listen to you.

How do you do that?

Here are 5 suggestions if you want people to listen to you:

Value the person.

No one follows someone willingly who they don’t believe cares for them. Teddy Roosevelt’s famous line “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is true.

Don’t expect people to want to learn from you until they know you have their best interest at stake and that you care for them personally – not simply what they can do for you or the organization. We listen to leaders we trust.

Paint a great vision.

You have to give people something worth following. It needs to stretch them, while still being attainable by risk, faith and hard work. When they know there’s a glimmer of hope to the finish line, they’ll be more willing to learn what it takes to attain it.

Communicate it frequently.

Even the best vision fades over time. People get bored. Andy Stanley uses the phrase “vision leaks”. If you want to maintain your audience of followers, you have to keep reminding them why you are doing what you are doing.

Tell compelling stories.

People are motivated by example. They want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. People will be more likely to seek your input if they know you are leading them to something of value and importance.

Share in the reward.

People only feel valued when they get to celebrate the victory. If all the recognition goes to the leader, the follower feels taken advantage of to some degree. If you want people to keep listening – listen to them – share the credit. Celebrate often

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7 Traits Needed to Effectively Lead Change

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

If you want to be in leadership get comfortable with change. The best leaders have the traits to effectively lead change.

Every leader deals with change, but in my experience, some handle it better than others. There are change agent leaders who seem to have an innate gifting at leading through change.

I’ve observed some common traits needed to effectively lead change.

7 traits for effectively lead change:

Flexibility

It doesn’t have to be your design. You simply want progress towards the overall vision. You are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. Instead, you navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.

Courage

Effectively leading change means you are willing to receive criticism and still move forward. You know how to filter through what is valid criticism – worth hearing – and what’s simply a venting of personal interest. Because of this you unwaveringly push through the junk which clouds progress.

Relational

You value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain their trust. Knowing that ultimate change can’t happen without human capital, you are constantly investing in relationships. Networking is one of a change agents greatest tools.

Strategic

You realize there are steps to take and carefully choose the timing of when to take them. It is like you have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.

Creative

You are able to see paths to success others can’t yet see. Change often happens because someone chose to be creative – even when it might not mesh with current structures. Effective change is one of the best forms of art in the field of leadership. This takes creativity.

Intentional

You make change for a specific purpose and never waste a change. Since you know that every change has the potential to make or break a team, you work diligently to bring the best results.

Thorough

You follow through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. You don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Think about your experience. Who are some of the best leaders who could effectively lead change?

Check out our new podcast where we unpack many of these issues – and add real stories to illustrate them.

7 Indicators It’s Not a Good Time for Change

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I’ve never been a proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sometimes you need a change and nothing is “broken”. It just isn’t as good as it could be, it’s keeping other things from being better, or it’s soon going to be broke unless you change. But there are indicators of times not to change.

Here are 7 times not to change:

When there isn’t a compelling purpose.

There should always be a why. It might be as simple as if you don’t change you’re going to be bored out of your mind, but have a reason before you introduce change.

When there are no good leaders behind it.

You need people who buy into the change. If a change has value you can usually find supporters. They may be few and may do nothing more than speak up for the change. If no one can get excited about the change except you, you probably need to raise up some supporters before moving forward. (There are rare exceptions to this one, but again, they are rare.)

When you haven’t defined a win.

Changing before you know what success looks like will keep you running in a lot of ineffective directions without much progress.

When the loss is more expensive than the win.

Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it. You can’t justify the people and resource expense for the potential return.

When the leader isn’t motivated.

There are times to wait if senior leadership can’t get excited or at least support the change if push back develops. Eventually, without their support, you’ll be less likely to experience sustaining, successful change.

When too many other things are changing.

Any organization or group of people can only handle so much change at a time. This requires great discernment on the part of leaders to know when there is too much change occurring and it is best to wait for something new.

When an organization is in crisis mode.

If a ship is sinking, fix the leak or bail some water – before choosing your next destination. When things are in crisis, is not the time to make a ton of changes. Catch your breath first, make sure a core of people is solid behind the vision, and take careful steps to plan intentional, helpful and needed change.

This isn’t intended as a checklist of indicators of times not time for change. I would never want to stop someone from making needed changes. In fact, I love change. I do try to encourage better change and I hope this helps. Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues/topics like this in a conversational format.

10 Suggestions for the Bi-Vocational Pastor

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I spent my first few years of ministry as a bi-vocational pastor. For those who may not know the term, in order to fully support my family I had to seek other work to supplement my income I received as a pastor.

I still have a heart for those who hold down two jobs – sometimes both of them approaching full-time. And I think more pastors may have to consider bi-vocational ministry in the years ahead. I don’t think that is completely bad. My years in the secular world greatly helped me in ministry. That is our mission field.

But I love assisting pastors and especially want to help these dedicated servants. They work harder than many pastors receiving a full-time income from the church.

Let me share a few things I learned and have observed from working with other bi-vocational pastors. I’m going to share 5 suggestions of things I believe you should do, followed by 5 suggestions of things I would suggest you should not.

Things you should do

Be accountable – As a bi-vocational pastor you need to allow people to speak into your life. You may feel more independent if you’re not completely dependent on the church for your income, but you still need accountability – like we all do.

Be disciplined – You have to stay healthy in all areas of your life. We all do, but you have more pressure on the bi-vocational pastor to do so.

Be organized – Have someone help you if needed, but develop systems to do everything you have to do in a week. I find the busier I am and the more I am doing, the more structure I need to provide myself. There will always be interruptions, but you’re better prepared for them when you start your week with a plan.

Be intentional – It’s hard work, but you have to keep both business and church worlds running well – and still be a good family man. It will require intentionality on your part.

Be diligent – In all areas of your life, you must do your best. Your witness is at stake.

Things you shouldn’t do

Complain to the church – It’s tempting, because the work is hard. They should know you do – and hopefully they will give you consideration for it. But it’s not fair to them to hear you complain about it all the time.

Lose sight of vision – The reason you are a bi-vocational pastor is to complete the call God has on your life. And what you do is valuable. Life-changing. Eternal.

Let yourself burnout – Stay healthy physically, relationally, and emotionally. Again, let people speak into your life who recognize when you are stretching yourself too far. You may have to say no to some things so you can do other things. (Some will need to read that last sentence again.)

Allow one world to outshine the other – This is the hard part, but you have to be good in all your worlds if you’re going to continue. You’ll need God’s strength, but again, it’s your witness.

Neglect your family – Here’s another hard one, but they are your first commitment. They will be there after either vocation.

One key to your success long-term will be to continually improve personally, so you can do more professionally. Ask God to help you with that. And I’m pulling for you.

Have you ever had to balance dual careers? What advice would you give?

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5 Hidden Objections to Change

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

I’ve learned there are some common – often hidden – objections to change. These are secret objections.

No one admits to these, but they are real. In fact, they may be the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face in implementing change.

Show me an objection to change and you’re almost guaranteed to find one of these hidden in the crowd somewhere. And you’ll probably find multiples of them.

These are often hard to admit, but they are true. Understanding them can help you better lead change.

5 hidden objections to change:

Selfishness

Let’s face it – we want what we want. What’s comfortable requires less sacrifice on our part.

Pride

We like our ideas and don’t believe we can enjoy the ideas of others, as much as our own. The way I want to do things is best, isn’t it?

Fear

We are afraid of what could happen if we change. Change might launch a whole series of change. That’s scary.

Power

We want to make the decisions for our life and resist when others are making them for us. The reality is most of us have a very real and sometimes hidden desire for control.

Satisfaction

We are satisfied with current status. Things are being done the way they’ve always been done. This is the way things are supposed to be. And we like it this way.

To be clear, I don’t believe we can continue to grow most of the time without change. Change is all around us. Therefore, failing to embrace change only leads to more severe problems later. But that doesn’t mean change is easy.

Sometimes understanding the hidden reasons behind the objection helps the leader better address the situation.

What hidden objections to change have you seen?

Check out my new leadership podcast on the Lifeway Podcast Network or wherever you listen to podcasts. In an upcoming episode, we will address these hidden objections and ways to address them.

7 Common Connectors for People

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One thing which has always come naturally to me and I love doing is connecting people with similar interests. This skill has served me well as a pastor.

I believe one of the best ways within the Body of Christ for “iron to sharpen iron” is to help find common connectors for people.

From a strategic, discipleship standpoint, I know people are more likely to be connected to the church if they are connected to other people at deeper levels than simply attending the same church. If they can identify with people who understand them or embrace something they embrace, they feel more a part of things.

Connection is huge if we want to be effective at discipleship.

Connecting people with similarities is one of the more effective ways I’ve seen to do this. When two people have similar interests other barriers seem to diminish.

So, I’m always looking for ways to connect people to other people through commonalities.

Let me give you some examples of similar interests I look for in connecting people.

7 common connectors for people:

Common pain – For example, one of the hardest losses in the church is the loss of a child. This is a pain I can’t fully understand the way someone who has experienced it does. Sadly, we always have a number of parents who have experienced this in our church. I’m regularly connecting them as I learn of their struggles.

No one can walk through pain better with you than someone who knows the exact pain you feel. And there are lots of other common pains in the church – infertility, personal failure, and divorce – just to name a few.

Common struggle – Different from pain, these are people who share a common issue they frequently are wrestling with or are currently. One example is someone who is looking for work. Another is someone struggling with a wayward child. The whole success of Alcoholics Anonymous is built on this principle.

Of course, there are safeguards you need to consider with this one. You want to make sure the people you’re connecting are going to actually help each other and not be a bigger temptation to them in the struggle, but there can also be great strength in people bonding together during common struggles.

Common passion – One of the issues of struggle in our society today is human trafficking. The statistics are astounding and all of us – especially believers – should be concerned about the issue.

I’ve seen, however, some people have formed a passion for doing something about it. Whole ministries have started with this passion. If I run into two people who share this passion it makes sense for me to introduce them. And I have many times in our church. This is just one example. It could be a cause, or a cure, or a dream which is driving a person. If I know someone else shares this passion I want to connect them.

Common vocation – This is one of the easiest connecting pieces for people. Teachers understand the unique issues other teachers face daily. So do policeman. As do bankers, attorneys, the self-employed and engineers.

With so much of our life revolving around what we do vocationally this makes such a natural place to connect people with a similar interest.

Common hobby – I’m no longer a golfer. I used to be, but just haven’t found the time the last decade. I love to meet a golfer though, because I almost always know another golfer. The same is true with people who fish, hunt, crochet, play cards or are amateur chefs.

Common seasons –  If you are a parent of older children, do you remember the days of endless diapers and sleepless nights? We do, but not as well as someone experiencing it today does. I love connecting new parents together. Of course, we do some of this through the programs and Bible studies of the church, but this is also a way to connect people who haven’t yet “connected” to the church. Widows and widowers of the church are in a different season of life.

One specific season where I’ve connected people is new empty-nesters. I’m familiar with this one and it is hard adjusting to this season, which makes it a great connecting point.

Common goals – This is where two or more people have a specific goal in mind they want to achieve. It could be to run a marathon, to write a book, or to learn to fly a plane.

Recently, I connected two women who were both trying to memorize the book of Philippians. (I’m so impressed by people who can do this.) One was a young mother and one was a grandmother. I knew they needed to know each other, and I didn’t think it a coincidence I had just heard each of them express this goal at separate times within the span of a few days. They began meeting together regularly and formed a wonderful bond and love for one another.

Of course, huge in making this happen is getting to know people – asking questions – listening for the things which are important to them and remembering some of those details. And this has to be developed with discipline and time. It’s one way I remember people, even in a large church, is by the things I learn about them.

Pastors and ministry leaders, I cannot tell you how powerful and rewarding this has been for my ministry. To see people form lasting friendships and grow in their walk with Christ – knowing the connection I made helped it happen – is such an honor and blessing.

And, again, while you are looking for common connectors, this is actually a way to build diversity into your church. People may have differing backgrounds or demographics, but they share something else in common.

I highly recommend the intentionality – and it does take intentionality!

What are other similar common connectors have you seen where you can connect people?

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RELP – Episode 4 – Things I Try to Control as a Leader

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, Ron and Nate discuss the things that a leader should try to control.

Ron is blessed to have successfully led in the planting of two churches and leading in three revitalization efforts in established churches. Because of this experience, Ron is frequently asked what things he tries to control and which he releases to others.

Ron says, “I love that question, because I think its one all leaders need to ask themselves – frequently.”

You create a leadership lid in whatever areas you choose to control.

So, a leader shouldn’t try to control much. But there are things a leader should try to control.

Join in as Ron and Nate talk about those things.

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Would you take time to write a review (a nice one preferred), share this podcast with others, and subscribe? Launching anything new greatly depends on the support of a few people. In this case, these are people who help get the word out about the podcast, therefore I appreciate you being one of those people.

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7 Things TO DO When a Church Is In Decline

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I recently posted 7 things NOT to do when the church is in decline. This is a companion post.

What should you do when a church is in decline?

There are no cookie-cutter solutions for reversing a church in decline. Churches have unique characteristics, because they have different people. They are different reasons which cause decline. It could be anything from poor leadership, to being locked into the traditions of men or simply a change in population in the community.

I would be considered arrogant and even hurtful to pretend to have all the answers for a church I do not know.

When I’ve worked with a church in decline I almost always give at least some of these same suggestions.

7 things TO DO when the church is in decline:

Evaluate

What went wrong or is going wrong? Why are less people attending? Why are new people not? Ask the hard questions. Is it programmatic, a people problem, or a Biblical issue? Perhaps your church is just plain boring?

If nothing has changed in the programs you offer in the last 10 years – I may already have your answer. But ask questions.

Ask for inside and outside opinions. This takes guts, but is critically necessary. You can’t address problems until you know them. There may be a need for an outside perspective. Recruit a “secret shopper” attendee to give you an objective look at the church. You must evaluate even if you are afraid to know the answers.

Own it

The problems are real. Don’t pretend they are not. Cause or blame is not important. Quit denying. Start owning the issues. I see too many churches avoid the issues because they are difficult – or unpopular – to address.

Find a Bible story where people of God were called to do something which didn’t involve a certain level if risk, hard work, fear or the necessity of faith.

Address major, obvious issues

If the church has “forgotten your first love” – repent. When the church holds on to bitterness and anger from the past – forgive. If walking by faith has been replaced by an abundance of structure – step out boldly. When disunity is an issue it must come together first.

If you love the traditions of men more than the commands of God – turn from sin. And if the problems involve people, don’t set out to please people- address them. Yes, this requires leadership.

Church leaders lead. And leadership takes us through the hard places to get to the best places.

Find alignment

Where does the church best find unity? What will everyone get excited about doing? This is many times a vision, or a moment in history that was special to everyone, or a common thread within the DNA. Find and focus attention on it.

In my experience, God will not bless a church in disunity, but churches have issues, causes or programs that everyone can get excited about and support. Working together builds enthusiasm, momentum and unity.

Regroup

At some point, regardless of how drained you feel from the decline, you’ve got to come to a strategy of what to do next. It needs to be written. You need a road map of where you are going in the next season.

I’ve never personally been able to plan in great detail more than twelve months out and sometimes, especially in times of less clarity, only a few months, but you need a plan. Start with your overall vision and explore ideas of how to accomplish it again. Put some measurable goals in place to make progress – things you’ll do next week, next month, and in a few months down the road. It will hold you accountable if you have an action-oriented strategy.

Reignite

Put your energy and resources where it matters most. This often involves getting back to the basics of what it takes to achieve your vision. If you are a church with a heart for missions, for example, amp up your mission efforts.

It may mean not doing things that aren’t working. They tend to drain energy and resources. Look for what is working, or has the potential to work again – the fastest, and begin to stir energy around that program or ministry. You need quick wins so the church can feel a sense of progress again.

Celebrate

There will be wins. You may have to look for them some days, but when they occur celebrate. Celebrate big. Remind people that God is still moving among you. Now, it should be noted, for the overly celebratory types, that you can’t celebrate everything.

If everything is wonderful – or amazing – then wonderful and amazing is really average. They need to be legitimate wins. If you celebrate mediocrity you’ll set a precedent of mediocrity. But when you see signs of heading in the right direction, make a big deal out of it.

Those are seven suggestions.

I strongly encourage you, if you want to see the church growing again – if the church yearns for health again – be intentional. Be willing to ask for help. Raise the white flag and invite honest dialogue.

The harvest is ready – the workers are few – we need you! We are losing too many churches and not planting and reviving enough. Do the hard work. Pray without ceasing. And, trust your labor will not be in vain. Praying for you.

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7 Things NOT to Do When the Church is In Decline

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Often when I hear from a pastor the church has been plateaued or in a season of decline for several years. They are often looking for answers of how they can turnaround.

I love helping churches, but there truly are no standard answers. It’s unique for every church and every situation.

The hardest lesson a church needs to learn in a period of decline, however, is often not what they should do, but what they shouldn’t. I’ve seen churches make, at least what appears to me, to be an abundance of wrong decisions towards growing again.

In a future post, I’ll share some suggestions of what a church in decline should do.

7 things NOT to do when in decline:

Blame others

It’s easy to blame the decline on a former pastor – or the deacons – or the senior adults – or even on the culture. I continually hear phrases such as, “If it weren’t for a few people we could probably grow again.” But the reality is, when you are in decline, this matters less than what you are going to do about it. As long as you are blaming someone or something you won’t address the real issues.

Make excuses

There are a multiple reasons we could probably discover – many of them true – of why a church begins to decline. You should know them, but at some point excuses only cloud our ability to move forward.

Pretend

I’ve seen so many churches pretend there isn’t a problem when everyone knows there is one. If you want to grow again, you’ll have to admit there is a problem which needs addressing. (And this likely involves implementing some change.)

Lower expectations

It seems natural when the church is in decline to expect less, but this never works. You are trying to attract new people. There is a need for more excellence, not more mediocrity to do it. You may need to lower the number of programs you offer, but never lower expectations of the ones you do.

Cut expenses

This one has dual meanings, of course, because reducing expenses may be exactly what you need to do. The point here is to make sure you lower the right expenses. Don’t cut things which got you where you are or will get you where you need to go. You shouldn’t cut promotional or community investment dollars. The fact here is many times the expenses you may need to cut are difficult – unpopular decisions.

Overreact

Too much change during a period of decline can be deadly. Too little change can be equally damaging. Panic of leadership almost always leads to panic in people trying to follow. Strive not to react too strongly either way. Don’t change everything and don’t clamp down and refuse to change anything. Renew the vision God called you to – set good, clear goals and objectives to chart a course forward – and then trust God will see you through this period.

Give up

There may be a time to quit. The fact is the church, as in the Body of Christ, is here to stay. Jesus promised that. He didn’t make the promise to every local church. Local churches close every year. But before you give up, or before you resolve church growth is for other churches – but not this one – make sure you haven’t given up too soon. In my experience, we often quit just before the breakthrough. Do all you know to do, then stay close to the heart of God, waiting for Him to bring the increase again or lead you in making harder decisions.

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RELP – Episode 2 – Where to Find New Leaders

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In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast, Ron and Nate discuss where to find new leaders.

Finding leaders is critical to the success of any nonprofit organization. Therefore, the church should have the greatest volunteer pool among all organizations. Sadly, many churches overlook some of their best volunteers.

In both church planting and church revitalization, I discovered one secret to our success was going to be the quality of leaders we could attract. Many times in church planting we had to recruit people who never had experience leading in a ministry context. While I do not believe it is that much different from other contexts of leadership, it was often intimidating to them.

In the established church, we often had plenty of people in leadership positions. Many of them, however, had been in those positions for years. We need new leaders with new approaches to realize needed change.

Where do you find new leaders? Where are some places to look?

So, in this episode, Ron and Nate get practical about finding new volunteers – who do not simply do what they are told to do – they lead. For any church to grow, volunteers need to take leadership roles in the church.

I hope these podcasts are helpful. They really are an extension of years of blogging, but this puts a little more personal touch to this. I hope as you listen to Nate and me discuss practical leadership issues, you will feel the comfortable tone of a conversation between father and son. That is our desire.

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