12 Bible Verses to Encourage Christian Leaders

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

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

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

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.)

7 Mistakes New Leaders Often Make, But Should Avoid

By | Leadership | One Comment

Numerous times throughout my more than 35 years leadership career I’ve been the new guy.

Navigating those early days in a new leadership role is critically important. Much of our future success as leaders is determined by how well we start. It is more difficult to regain momentum for our leadership if it is lost or never begins early.

(Part of my consulting practice is helping new leaders launch well. If I can help you, please let me know.)

Here are 7 classic new leader mistakes:

Assuming people trust you before they really do. New leaders often gain a window of approval. Everyone appears nice to the new person. People will appear excited to have a new leader on board. Either way, people in the early days can often make a new leader feel very loved and very popular.

Trust is not the same thing as popularity. It must be earned over time and experience.

(By the way, honeymoon periods, in my observation, aren’t lasting as long as they used to last.)

Bashing the past while attempting to get to the future. When you speak badly of the past you alienate people who were there before you arrived. The past is a part of the people you’re trying to lead and it forces people to feel they need to defend themselves.

You can’t ignore the past, and you may need to either repent from it or build from it, but you must approach it carefully.

Assuming nothing good was done before you got there. In reality there were probably lots of good things done in the past. It’s arrogant to think otherwise. You’ll be more effective if you help people rediscover some things which were done well than to ignore any good that ever happened before.

Having the “they need me” complex. When the new leader arrives pretending to have all the answers it keeps any other good ideas from being shared. People either aren’t motivated to help or they don’t feel they have permission.

Ignoring unwritten rules. Every organization has rules, which never make it to a piece of paper. They are in the core DNA and are often more powerful than the written ones. These unwritten rules involve things such as how things are done, how people interact with one another, and reaction to change.

They can be changed over time, but not as easily if they aren’t understood – and even followed – in the process of changing them.

Not understanding the real power structure. Before you can ever effectively implement change you have to learn the people who hold positions of power. It’s not always the people with titles. There are people of influence that – when they speak – people listen.

Not testing the waters before making major change. Seasoned leaders know there must be “meetings before the meeting”. You must find the pulse for change before you spend any capital for change you have. Don’t assume everyone is on board just because it’s a great idea (in your mind) and people like you.

My Suggestion

I believe humility addresses most of these well. If a new leader approaches the organization in a humble effort to learn the people and the organization, listening to people and asking good questions – before attempting major change, he or she is more likely to be successful as the leader.

5 Nuggets of Wisdom for Young Ministry Leaders

By | Leadership | One Comment

I spend a good amount of my ministry investing in younger leaders and I love it, because it fuels me to know something I’ve learned – often through trial and error – might help another leader avoid my mistakes.

This is one of those type posts.

Here are 5 nuggets of wisdom, young leaders:

The more specific you are the more other people can help you. 

Don’t dance around the issue you are struggling with as if you have answers when in reality you have none. We have all been where you are and we understand. So, we can better help you if you tell us what the real problem is and where your fear is greatest.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. 

Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. These may need to be people outside the work you’re doing, but some days they’ll be the only fuel that keeps you going.

(Not to seem self-serving, but you might need a coach. I do this for a number of younger leaders.)

Seek your affirmation among people God sent you to minister to. 

This one came as great advice from a seasoned leader. Many times you will feel under-appreciated as a leader. You may not even feel you’re doing any good and you’ll often second-guess yourself and your calling.

When those times come, get back to helping the hurting people – or the work, whatever it is – God called you to do. Be recharged by being the real you.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. 

We all want instant success, but that is seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled – often many times.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

Protect your soul. 

You have to discipline yourself to decompress. Here’s a paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened – I will give you refreshment for your soul.“

Live this truth daily and place it as a regular practice of your life.

7 Indicators You’re Not Really on a Team

By | Church, Leadership | 2 Comments

In my world, the word team is used almost on a daily basis. Most of us want to be in a team environment. However, in my experience working with churches – and it was true when I was in business also – more people claim to have a team than actually do.

There are a few signs I look for when someone tells me they have a team environment.

7 indicators it’s really not a team:

One person makes all the decisions.

Most who think they have a true team culture will skip this one, because many times they don’t see it happening. But if everyone has to wait for one person or a committee to make a decision – it is probably less of a team than proposed. On a team everyone sits in a seat of authority. There is a mutual trust and empowerment of others.

Everyone doesn’t have a key role.

On a real team – all players are needed. They may not all play the same amount of time and they fill different positions, because everyone is valued.

There are multiple agendas.

One thing which makes it a team is everyone is playing for the same objective. Without this there is more competition than cooperation.

Communication is controlled.

Teams share information. They continually update one another on what they are individually contributing to the team and weigh in on decisions. Team dynamics are damaged when only a few people know everything or most decisions are made for the team – outside the team.

Conflict is seen as a threat.

Healthy teams work through conflict and remain cooperative and supportive of one another. Everyone is allowed to challenge ideas and offer opposition.

Every person is for themselves.

The greatest value of a team is in the collective wisdom and shared workload. When teams function more as individuals than as a team, members can become overwhelmed, frustrated and eventually burnout.

Celebration is always received individually not collectively.

There will always be moments where one member is getting more recognition than another. But, on healthy teams, wins are celebrated together. No one claims personal credit for the victories.

Those are a few clues which tell me it’s really not a team. You can call it what you want – could be a group, or an association, or even an organization.

But it’s not a team.

It should be noted. There are times when we don’t need a team. We need a leader who will stand even if alone and lead people to places they can’t yet see but where they need to go. I have found those times to be rare when I have a healthy team.

(If I can help your “group” better become a team, please let me know.)

How I Make Better Decisions – Faster

By | Leadership | 3 Comments

As a leader, I am forced to make dozens of decisions every day. During this pandemic that has only multiplied.

Thankfully, years ago I learned the secret to making better decisions faster.

When I’m pushed for a quick answer – when everyone knows a decision needs to be made now, but without time to get all the information I might normally require to make a decision.

I empower the team to make the decision.

Sometimes I simply don’t have enough information or enough time to gather it, even though by position the decision would normally be mine to make. It happens frequently enough I need to have a plan for those occasions. There are simply decisions, which need to be made quickly, but I don’t know the parameters we need to make the best decision, as well as others on the team.

I could slow down progress and micromanage. Instead, I empower people to make decisions.

In times like this, the people on our staff:

  • Have more knowledge about the issue than I have.
  • Usually have an opinion of what we should do.
  • Often hope I’ll answer the way they want me to.
  • Won’t always share their idea until I ask for it.

In those times, I will ask a question, such as, “What do you think we should do?” or “Are you comfortable enough to put your name behind it?” or “What would you do if you were me?”

Then I go with their instinct – maybe even over my own.

Healthy leadership means healthy empowerment.

But, and this is key if you truly want people to give you input, I let them know I will back them in the decision.

And, equally important, I let them know they will be also held partially responsible for the outcome.

  • I’m still on the hook.
  • I will support them completely.
  • I am willing to stand fully behind them.

But I’ll follow their lead on the issue.

It grants them authority, allows them to buy into the decision and grows their leadership.

And it helps move the organization forward faster.

The leadership principle here:

If you want to lead people you have to trust them and let them own decisions.

My “System” For Handling Difficult People in the Church

By | Church, Church Revitalization, Leadership | 2 Comments

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)  

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

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

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.