How to Stop Being a People-Pleasing Pastor or Leader

By | Church, Leadership, Organizational Leadership | No Comments

After a post about casualties of being a people-pleasing pastor, I received the following email asking how to stop:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People-Pleasing Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here was my reply how to stop people-pleasing:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish.

It appears you have one, but people-pleasing must be more important to you than accomplishing this vision. I’m not trying to sound harsh here, but that’s the reality. We tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy. Make sure your vision is God-honoring and God-ordained – which I’m confident it is. When you are leading a church, obviously you want to do the will of God. He gives us latitude I believe, but we want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory. Be confident of this.

The vision is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it – regardless of who brings it to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say, “I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.”

Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy in with a team towards reaching the vision

You need a team around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Be careful who you surround yourself with here. Make sure they are people who are not self-serving, can see a bigger picture, and will protect your back should the need arise. We all need people who can and will back us up when we are tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

When you recruit them, make sure they understand the vision and are committed to seeing it to completion. Be honest with your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Share with them your desire to complete the vision and given them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines

Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This process is vital, because it keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am. If I let those who lead in a specific area of ministry help make the decisions in their area, we will protect the vision more often.

Allow these same people to hold you accountable to sticking to these determined goals and objectives. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision. I give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us.

Discipline yourself

The reality is, if you recognize people pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. It probably has been a weakness for a while now, so don’t expect it to disappear immediately. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Put it in your schema. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

Those are my initial suggestions. I’m praying for you, Frustrated Pastor, but I’m believing you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will. And I suspect He’s already got a plan for your future as you continue to obey.

Blessings to you, pastor,

Ron

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

7 High Costs of Attempting to Eliminate Risk

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

Every leader attempts to limit risk as much as possible when making decisions. We don’t want to jeopardize the organization – ultimately the people – we are trying to lead, so we attempt to have good systems and procedures, boundaries in place, adequate resources, and even contingency or emergency plans. But there are some high costs when we attempt to eliminate all organizational risk.

I’ve seen leaders confuse an attempt to limit risk with attempting to eliminate ALL risk. There is a big difference. I’m not sure we can ever fail-proof anything , so it’s a futile attempt at best to try to get rid of risk completely.

When we are more rule-centric or risk-adverse than we are willing to “take a chance” or “try something new”, our opportunity costs exceed our potential savings from attempting to eliminate all risks. Every successful organization embraces a certain amount of risk. And there are some high costs involved when a leader who is overly cautious.

Here are 7 high costs of attempting to eliminate risk:

Limited growth.

Personally and corporately, without a certain amount of risk there is no potential for growth. Growth happens in environments where the potential to fail is prevalent, accepted, and not scorned. People are not afraid to take chances.

Unfulfilled dreams.

Dreams are made of the seemingly impossible. The bigger the dream the greater the risk. Healthy teams and organizations have big, lofty dreams pulling them forward.

False reality.

Life is a constant risk. If a leader has as a goal an attempt to eliminate it they are essentially playing tricks with mirrors and fancy lights. They’ve created an unachievable expectation for people who follow.

Underutilized resources.

“Playing it safe” may make more sense on paper. It may even feel comfortable, but often when resources are stretched is when the greatest growth potential occurs. Ask the question – “What would we do if we were forced to change and there was no money available?” It’s amazing how creative people can become.

Wasted time.

The time you invest trying to eliminate risk could be used to leverage risk for a greater gain. All of us only have so much time, so leaders must be diligent stewards of it.

Expensive opportunity loss.

Whenever you choose not to do something because of the risk involved, there is always a loss associated. The organization will miss out somewhere on something by not moving forward soon enough. The greatest discoveries often involve people who are willing to assume the greatest risks.

Diminished momentum.

The fact is risk fuels momentum. There is something inside of most of us – especially the entrepreneurial leader types – who thrive on achieving those things which seem impossible. When the chance of failure is high so are the components which fuels momentum.

Leader, you can never fully eliminate risk and this is one of the hard parts of leading. The time you spend attempting to do so will take precious time from doing other things, which probably can reap higher reward. Risk is a reality to be managed not a problem to be avoided.

(This is true, of course, when leading in the church. Perhaps more so, because we are to always be faith-driven. Faith always, by definition, deals with a level of the unknown.)

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

RELP – Episode 26 – A Major Communication Barrier on All Teams

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about A Major Communication Barrier found on Every Team.

I have experienced this one so many times. Not understanding this basic communication barrier can cause major frustration and decrease inefficiency on the team. Understanding it can help create unity and organizational health.

Plus, this podcast episode might help you in other relationships, besides your team. Understanding this principle is huge in my own marriage relationship.

As you may know, I normally host this with my son Nate, but his schedule as a pastor has kept him from being able to partner with me lately. I hope he returns soon. In the meantime, I’m loving the discussion with my friend Chandler.

In this episode, we discuss a major communication barrier on every team.

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

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

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

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

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

5 Bad Reasons to Plant a Church

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

There are some bad reasons to plant a church.

Please understand, I love church planting. When I moved back into church revitalization, part of the concern I had was I might not have a foot into church planting. That would be tough for me. After two successful plants and having worked with literally hundreds of planters, I think it’s in my blood. (Interestingly, my mom served on the core of a church plant before she married my dad.)

Thankfully, I still have lots of avenues to be a part of church planting from an established church. I’m still involved with Exponential. Our church plants churches. And planters still ask for my help on a regular basis.

But for years I’ve been concerned about one thing I see in the church planting movement.

I seem to find some planters – or want-to-be planters – who plant a church for some bad reasons. The fact is we need people called to ministry in the established church. We need them in church revitalization. Not everyone needs to be a church planter. 

And the bigger issue is without the right reasons, if we are not careful, a church plant could become just a part of a growing fad and no ultimate good will come from it. People will waste valuable time, energy and resources when they simply were never called to plant. That’s not good for the planter or the Kingdom.

So, we must be careful to plant for the right reason. And, equally importantly, to not plant for the wrong reasons.

Let me give some examples of bad reasons to plant a church. There are surely others.

Here are 5 bad reasons to plant a church:

You’re running from authority.

I’ve worked with some people who didn’t want to follow the rules. In fact, I am that person sometimes. While this may be a good mindset for an entrepreneurial type, and church planters certainly are, it is not a good reason to start a church. When this is the reason it is often out of pride and arrogance. God can never honor that.

You’ll have authority in a church plant – or at least you should. One of the quickest ways to burnout and flame out is to refuse it. If you’re smart you’ll give away authority and not be a power-broker. All of us need some authority and accountability in our lives.

You want to do things your way.

I understand. Really. Especially if you worked for a controlling leader or for someone who had no passion or vision. You have energy and momentum around a dream and need to explore it. I get it. Bravo! I applaud seeking after something which grabs your heart.

But be careful. Sometimes a desire birthed in good can quickly become something birthed in rebellion. And pride can quickly take over your heart. Plus, when this happens, many times you close yourself to ideas other than your own. You then become the controlling leader you resented. And you will limit the vision you are seeking to you. You limit what you control.

Make sure you’re not planting just so you can exclusively do things YOUR way.

You want to be close to momma.

Or momma-in-law. This one sometimes hits too close to home. And I get this one too. You love your family. There is free babysitting. Loving a family is a good thing.

But our callings are bigger than the comfort of home – or the cool city where we can find the best coffee shops. Sometimes God gives us huge latitude in location, but sometimes He does not.

Certainly we need planters all over the place. And home may be exactly where God wants you to plant. (I planted a church in my home town. Some questioned it, but I knew it was what I was called to do. The proof is in the results over 15 years later.) God may allow you to plant exactly where you “want” to plant. I hope He does.

Sometimes, however, God’s plan sends us where we don’t necessarily want to go. He often calls us to leave our comfort zone. Make sure in whatever you do the decision is always His – and not yours alone.

Your friends are doing it.

It’s popular to plant a church these days. As I said, I still attend church planting conferences. We need lots of new churches. Tons. And the church planting movement attracts a lot of people.

So, if you have friends in ministry, some of your friends may be desiring to plant a church. It seems to be the buzz these days.

It’s just never a good reason to plant a church because everyone else is doing it. It needs to be your calling – not anyone else’s.

You’ve got the cool factor.

I meet some really cool people planting churches. I needed to clarify this because I was almost 40 when I planted a church the first time and I had long passed the day I could wear skinny jeans.

Church plants – anything new – attracts cool. (It’s funny, when I attend church planting conferences there are lots of similar looks. Styles change but church planters keep up with the styles.)

But cool does not make a good church planter. I should be honest, it doesn’t hurt. Boring is boring.  But it isn’t a reason to plant a church. And the fact is we need cool people in the established church also. Church revitalization needs cool too – perhaps even more.

So why plant a church?

There is really only one reason to plant a church.

You are fully convinced God has called you to plant a church.

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

7 Indicators You’re Not Leading Anymore

By | Change, Church, Church Revitalization, Innovation, Leadership, Team Leadership | 2 Comments

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads. I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Mythical Leader. There are times, for a variety of reasons, when even the best leaders stop leading, but I think we have indicators when we are not leading intentionally.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere.

Even the best leaders have periods when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break. And I encourage that.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. Plus, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times, I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

Again, those times should be intentional and they shouldn’t be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? What are the indicators you’re not leading? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? Then ask yourself if those are occurring.

For example,

Here are 7 indicators you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed.

Leadership is about something new. It’s taking people somewhere they haven’t been. That always involves change. If nothing is changing you can do without a leader.

You’re not asking questions.

A leader only knows what he or she knows – and nothing more. And, many times, in my experience, the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions.

Leaders point people to a vision. A VISION. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. Competing visions arise and confusion elevates when we fail to lead.

No one is complaining.

This is a hard one, but you can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is almost always settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched.

Please understand – a leader should strive for clarity. They certainly shouldn’t aim for chaos. But when things are changing and work becomes challenging there will always be times of confusion. Don’t equate calmness with good leadership. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

No paradigms are being challenged.

Many times the best change is a change of mindset – a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

People being “happy” has become a goal.

Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision – not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

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

RELP – Episode 25 – 10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition When YOU Change Jobs

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition When YOU Change Jobs.

I have done so many transitions in my career. It’s one of the reasons I offer transition and succession coaching. Equally important to my transitions, however, have ben helping Cheryl transition well. It took me a while to learn this, but when I did it made me want to help other leaders.

The way you help your spouse transition to YOUR new job may be equally, if not more, important than how you transition. It certainly will play into your initial (and maybe long-term) success in that position.

As you may know, I normally host this with my son Nate, but his schedule as a pastor has kept him from being able to partner with me lately. I hope he returns soon. In the meantime, I’m loving the discussion with my friend Chandler.

In this episode, we discuss ways to help your spouse transition when you change jobs.

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Don’t Always Give People An Answer

By | Church, Encouragement, Family, Leadership, Parenting | 3 Comments

I have a standard leadership practice, which I repeat as often as possible. I don’t always give people an answer.

I’ve been using it for many years – as a leader, father, a friend, and a pastor. People come to me in each of these roles looking for answers, but I choose to respond different from what they might expect (or even want initially). 

I don’t always give people an answer.

  • As a pastor, people come to me for answers.
  • My boys, now grown, often still come to me for answers.
  • As a friend, people come to me for answers.
  • Still doing occasional counseling, people come to me for answers.
  • As a leader of a team, the team comes to me for answers.

In either case, I don’t always give people an answer.

I don’t try to solve their problems for them. That may seem hard to understand , maybe even cruel of me, unless you understand why I don’t.

Now, if there is a clear Biblical answer for their problem or issue, I give it to them, as I understand it. And there are certainly things, which are my responsibility and I have to make a decision. I make dozens of decisions everyday. I’m not afraid to be the deciding voice when one is required of me. In fact, truth be known and based on my personality, it would be natural for me to give answers. 

Yet, this discipline has served me well in leadership.

See, I’m talking about decisions, which are the responsibility of other people to make. These are the issues more difficult to discern. Things such as career choice decisions, the calling in life decisions, who to marry, how to respond to a marriage conflict, how to deal with difficult parents or children or friends, etc. – the unwritten answer type decisions. When there are multiple, seemingly good options available, I don’t try to solve their problem.

For those type issues, I probably have an opinion, but I almost never “have” the answer.

Instead, 

I help people discover a paradigm through which to make the decision.

  • I help them see all sides of an issue.
  • Through questions, I spur bigger picture thoughts about an issue.
  • I share Scriptures, which may speak to both sides of a decision.
  • As an outside voice, I become an objective listener.
  • I connect them with people who may have experienced similar issues.
  • Diagraming the problem, as I hear it, I hope them see an issue on paper. (This is one of my favorites.)
  • I help them learn to pray and listen for the voice of God.

And then I release them to make a decision.

Here is my reasoning, 

If I solve the problem for them (or attempt to):

  • I’m just one opinion — and I am often wrong.
  • They’ll resent me if it proves to be a wrong decision, and trust me less the next time.
  • It could mean they never take ownership of the issue.
  • They’ll likely do what they want anyway.
  • Valuable skills of listening to the voice of God could be missed. 
  • Personal experience will be lost. (And, that’s the best way we learn.)
  • They will only rely on someone giving them the answer next time, failing to develop real wisdom, which comes through years of wrestling through the hard decisions of life.

My advice – for leaders, parents, pastors and friends:

Don’t always give an answer – or at least not THE answer.

Help people form paradigms through which to to solve problems and make wiser decisions.

Ideally we want people to develop healthy decision-making skills. We want them to gain dependence on God and the acquired ability to seek and discern wisdom. If we always make the decisions for them – if we always tell them exactly what they should do – they become too dependent on others and may never develop fully into who God has designed them to be.

LEADERSHIP PODCAST: Catch up on our leadership podcast. Join me and Nate or Chandler as we unpack leadership issues in a short, practical ways. 

RELP – Episode 24 – 7 Things TO DO When You’re in Decline

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

In this episode of The Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast Ron and Chandler Vannoy talk about Things to Do When an Organization is in Decline.

If you follow this podcast, we last talked about things NOT to do when a church or organization is in decline. We promised a counter post was next. I’m sorry for the delay.

As you may know, I normally host this with my son Nate, but his schedule as a pastor has kept him from being able to partner with me lately. I hope he returns soon. In the meantime, I’m loving the discussion with my friend Chandler.

In this episode, we discuss things to do when an organization is in decline.

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

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

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

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

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

The Ineffectiveness of A Team When There Is No Leader

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

I’ve seen many leaders make a common mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge the teams with carrying out a specific mission or an assigned task. The team is part of a accomplishing the greater vision. But their ineffectiveness comes when there is no leader.

Granted, I believe in teams.

I even love the word – TEAM! It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.

I think we should always strive to create great teams.

But here’s what often happens. The team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There may have lots of meetings, but there is no real forward movement.

The team flounders.

Why? They had a great team. The team was full of great people. They were part of a great vision and everyone may have known exactly what they hoped to accomplish.

But, this is where the common mistake exists among many teams.

They never had a leader.

I have worked with a number of churches that have well-defined structures with lots of committees. The problem is they are too structured for effectiveness. And, many times, you have to be in the church at least a year before you could serve in leadership. In practice, this often means you have to be there for many years before you are ever “known” enough to be placed on a committee.

This process might work well for certain committees – such as finance committee, but it doesn’t seem to work as well for others, such as the garden committee or the usher committee. Churches need lots of people in those areas and need to be able to plug new people in quickly and let them get to work. Often in these circumstances, churches need more of a team concept than a committee structure.

But even with teams – the ineffectiveness comes when no one is ever appointed a leader.

At some point in time, a leader will need to stand up – and lead.

Any group of people without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach.

I love leading through teams, but in addition to making sure people know what’s expected of them, we have to make sure every team has a leader.

Personally, I try to never appoint or release a team to do work until we make sure a leader is chosen. They can choose their own leader, we can appoint one for them, or they may even have co-leadership, but there needs to be someone who has the assigned task of steering, motivating and leading the team to accomplish it’s mission.

I love teams. I just make sure every team has a leader.

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