When Leaders Flail

design-65.pngThat’s not a typo.

Although I am addressing how some leaders respond in times of failure, flailing is my focus. The word flail can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it describes a primitive weapon, composed of a strong stick or pole, some type of rope or chain and a metal spiked ball at the end of the chain (picture courtesy of Google Images).  It was used in medieval times as a close-combat weapon. You can imagine the devastation it would cause an enemy. The verb form deals with a person who swings wildly, usually in a desperate attempt to overcome a dangerous situation. We see this kind of fighting in undisciplined street fights. Opponents don’t use fighting skills as much as they use brute strength, panic and a little bit of luck.

Let’s talk about flailing leaders. This type of flailing may not involve throwing punches, but it does involve wild responses. It happens when…

Under attack from an enemy.

In danger of being hurt.

Panic from failure sets in.

One doesn’t know what else to do.

Granted, it doesn’t happen in every one of these situations, but we’ve all seen it. A leader loses control of their assignment or themselves. They feel backed into a corner. They perceive a threat. So many of us come out swinging. They may yell, threaten others, try desperately to defend themselves or try to hurt others. We’re not sure who we are going to “hit” but someone will certainly get hurt.

I’m trying unsuccessfully to recall when a flailing leader came out looking good. I can name dozens of cases where a leader looked foolish while flailing.

Here are some things to remember the next time you are cornered, threatened, unsure, intimidated or in danger.

Once a leader loses their composure, things head downhill rapidly. People observe our reactions and responses. They watch closely what we do and say. They judge us as a leader based on our behavior. And many of them never forget what they observed. Years of trust building can be destroyed in a moment of flailing. Self-control is a vitally necessary characteristic for today’s leaders. If you lack control or are undisciplined, you will pay a big price. Poise is the ability to remain in control of one’s responses even when the situation is out of control. Poise under pressure is one of the most desirable traits for current leaders. People will trust and follow a leader that doesn’t panic. Maintaining equilibrium when things are falling apart allows a leader to help and serve others who desperately need them. Don’t get knocked off balance!

A flail (noun) is hard to control. Sometimes, people are hit unintentionally. Innocent bystanders can and will be damaged. And sometimes the person wielding the flail hits themselves. Sometimes, the blow is fatal.

Here’s the point: when leaders flail, people get hurt. Rather than helping people, we do damage.

The lesson is – prepare yourself ahead of time to respond to bad situations. Arm yourself with self-control, steady thinking, and the ability to remain calm. The next time someone or something threatens you, don’t fail by flailing! Your poise under pressure will serve you well and it will serve well those you are serving.

Leader: Who/What Validates You?

design-56To validate means to “recognize or affirm the validity or worth of a person.” (Dictionary.com). Before we get spiritual and argue that God is the only one who validates us, let’s be real.

Leaders are human and humans have weaknesses. Many of us struggle from low self esteem issues. We are insecure. Many leaders battle feelings of insufficiency and lack of qualifications. Being validated as a leader is not only helpful, it is necessary if we hope to survive the challenges that leaders regularly face.

Receiving recognition from those you lead is nice. Being honored on a special day or with a gift is affirming. When our leaders notice and comment on our work, it can be very motivating. Any time anyone says, “thank you”, we may feel validated.

But I believe we must be careful about who or what makes us feel good about ourselves as leaders.

Increasing productivity can validate us. Being named to a position of leadership, getting invited to speak at a special gathering or receiving an award can build our self esteem. But there is inherent danger herein.

Needing the public recognition or verbal affirmations of others in order to feel like a leader is dangerous. Those who must have a pat on the back may become vulnerable to people pleasing. Additionally, if we can be inflated by praise, we will become deflated by criticism.

I suggest our validity come from deep within ourselves. Leaders must know who they are in Christ. This does not mean that we don’t need the support and encouragement of others, on the contrary. But we can’t place our self concept in the hands of other people.

God called you as a leader, you responded. That response will include days when no one sees or talks about what a great leader you are. We’ve got to be ok with that.

Don’t feel less significant because your numbers are down. Don’t live or die based upon the opinions of others. Don’t count on the affirmations of others in order for you to understand your value.

You have family and close friends. Go ahead and allow them close into your heart and head. But even they shouldn’t be your sole source of validation.

You are valuable, you are needed, you are loved. That’s not validation coming from me, that’s validation coming from God.

Why I’m Thankful

design-54My wife will tell you, very often, as we are traveling about, I openly express my sincere thanks to God for His goodness to me. It is one of the most humbling thoughts to realize that God freely provides His gracious love to us. When I am in a healthy spiritual place, gratitude is one of my most common emotions. There are a few reasons for this.

I know what should have been. Only the Lord and I know what I was, and at times, still am. It is perfectly logical to think that I should have been destroyed. If I had reaped what I had sown, I would not be here. This is in no way a glorification of a dramatically bad boy life; far from it. I simply was a rotten person, and should God have chosen to give me my dues, I would have been done long ago. I am thankful that I am not yet done.

I know what could have been. Because of my early foundation, it is not beyond comprehension that I could have been destroyed. I could have gotten trapped in a miserable, desolate life. I could have spent my days in frustration and failure. I could have easily lived out my life in uselessness. I could have been consumed with pain, grief, addiction, despair and destruction. I am thankful that what could have been did not become reality.

 I know what wasn’t. My wife and I know the pain of losing a child. For the last many years, we have been impacted by our loss. Every holiday, every day we feel the pain.  This influences us at Thanksgiving because we are grateful for what we had, and then lost. It makes us treasure what we have. I am thankful for what we have, and for what we have lost.

I know what won’t be. I’m not getting any younger. My current situation is fleeting. My family is growing, the babies are getting big. My experience is fast, time is passing quickly. What I see now won’t last much longer. I am thankful that I have what I have now, and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest. I am grateful that, although passing quickly, life is very good for me.

So, I’m thankful. So very, very thankful for all that God has done and is doing for me.

I never want to lose that. Thank you, God.

Shepherds: the Sheep are Watching

design-26While it should be intuitive, I think it needs to be said: people follow their leaders. Leaders influence and impact. Those who lead others must understand their responsibility. Those we lead watch our behaviors. They listen to us talk. Whether intentional or not, followers pick up traits and characteristics from their leaders.

But some of the influence wielded by leaders morphs into, perhaps, unanticipated results. It may be assumed that a happy leader produces happy followers, but it’s not that simple.

At the risk of over simplification and generalizations, I think…

Angry shepherds lead wounded sheep.
Critical shepherds lead insecure sheep.
Disconnected shepherds lead wandering sheep.
Shallow shepherds lead vulnerable sheep.
Arrogant shepherds lead cynical sheep.
Manipulating shepherds lead confused sheep.
Selfish shepherds lead hungry sheep.
Doting shepherds lead entitled sheep.
Cowardly shepherds lead endangered sheep.                                                                                                                                            Rebel leaders lead rebellious sheep.

And

Compassionate shepherds lead recovering sheep.
Gracious shepherds lead transparent sheep.
Patient shepherds lead confident sheep.
Courageous shepherds lead secure sheep.
Consistent shepherds lead stable sheep.
Kind shepherds lead trusting sheep.
Nurturing shepherds lead healthy sheep.
Engaging shepherds lead connected sheep.
Serving shepherds lead committed sheep.                                                                                                                   Empowering shepherds lead growing sheep.

Of course, these are not written in stone, but you get the concept.

Leaders carry the heavy load of being influencers. If you are a leader, lead well. The wellbeing of the people you lead is dependent upon you.

Shepherds: the Sheep are Watching.

The Sword

There is a beautiful and powerful scripture verse in I Samuel 21:9. At a point of desperation, David is in need of a sword. The only one available is the sword that he took from Goliath when he had killed the giant some time earlier (see I Samuel 17). When offered the valuable and rare sword, David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

This verse is powerful for us because it indicates the value of victories won. When God brings us through a potentially destructive time and we overcome, something significant happens within us. We have seen God do the impossible. A standard for impossible victories is established. From this time forward, we have no need to fear battles. We are able to return again and again to the time of miraculous deliverance, and we trust God, regardless of the challenges at hand.

From time to time, I need to go back and recall the specifics of when God came through on my behalf. There are some swords that are very valuable to me; the swords that decapitated some of the giants I was facing. These swords are proven, trusted. And they provide the confidence I need to slay another giant.

While every battle requires its own strategy, there is nothing like the proven, trusted and effective Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

When in peril, my response will be: “There is none like it; give it to me!”

Let’s Own the Problem

design-1We frequently complain about the condition of the world. I often hear pastors and leaders grumble about the condition of the church they serve. Family members freely voice their disappointments with their family. Employees criticize their supervisors. It seems to be the way of the world.

But here is a thought: Let’s own the problem.

By “owning”, I am referring to the opportunity we have to accept responsibility, perhaps not for creating the problem (although at times we are guilty), but rather, for discovering the solution to the problem.

Sometimes, we like to remove ourselves from the work. We observe a big dilemma and the only answer is a lot of hard work – so we stand on the sidelines and shrug our shoulders. Or, we inherit a bad situation and it’s frustrating to see what a mess someone else has made. In these cases, it is easy to exonerate ourselves from responsibility.

I want to make 2 points very clear here:

  1. Leaders must be willing to clean up messes they did not make

and

  1. If you refuse to be the solution to problem, you are part of the problem.

Pastor, if you’ve been at your current church for more than 3 years, you own the problems, whether or not you created them. No more blaming your predecessor or the church members. If the church has a bad reputation in the community, repair it. If the leaders have no vision, train them. Politicians cannot continue to point fingers at the other party. We didn’t elect you to blame; we elected you to lead. If your neighborhood park is rundown, you can fuss about it on Facebook, or you can organize the community, raise some money, and go to work. Own the problem!

Keep in mind that God has a strategic plan for your life and if you are living in obedience to Him, He has you right where He wants you. Did He place you where you are only to be an observer? In His infinite wisdom, did He create you to be a complaining bystander? No, He put you in your current role so you can bring solutions to problems around you. You can no longer afford to be one who only points out problems – you must now be a solutions-oriented leader!

Moses didn’t enslave the people but God asked him to lead them out of slavery.

Joseph didn’t create the famine but God sent him ahead so he could rescue the entire nation.

Paul didn’t create the storm in Malta but God used him to save all 276 on board the boat.

Please notice that, in the cases above, owning the problem was painful. It cost the problem solvers a great deal. They suffered. But each of them accepted their role. And countless people were eternally indebted to them.

Let’s not minimize the cost of owning today’s problems. Let’s also not mistake this concept for becoming a “fixer.” You are not the Messiah; it is easy to get out of balance in your quest to bring answers. But within the proper parameters, one person can have an incredible positive impact on the dilemmas of this world.

One of the biggest responses we will hear from this proposition is: “the problem is too big for me. I don’t know what to do. It’s out of my scope of capabilities…” Keep this in mind: God can do anything. If you are on His side, if you are working on His team, He can bring the solution. But many times, YOU ARE THE SOLUTION! By this statement, I mean that God has placed the person with the perfect gift mix in the critical place to have the greatest impact in the process of removing of the obstacles that hold people back. You are that person. Let’s accept our role as problem solvers.

Problem solving is an art form. It requires great faith, vision and people skills. Not everyone possesses these gifts, so those that do must exploit them. Until we engage, develop and deploy these problem-solving skills, the problems will persist, and increase.

Keep this in mind: if you can’t or won’t engage the trouble, if you refuse to take ownership, perhaps God will appoint someone else who will.

Until we see ourselves as “owning” the issue, unless we take the reins to lead our way out of a problem, we will continue to make excuses – and the problems will plague us as well as the people we love. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s own it.

Can you Play the Theme Song from Charlie Brown?

Several years ago, I knew a guy who could play the song on the piano, and he could play it very well. At many church social events, he would find his way to a nearby piano and begin to play the song. People would stop and listen and laugh along and talk about how awesome he was. He kept doing this for a while, until people got used to it.

This happy little song brings about warm feelings for many. They think of holidays as a kid. The title of the song is “Linus and Lucy” and it was released in 1964 by jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi. I’m guessing the song will stay in your head the rest of the day.

At one event, I talked to the guy at our church about his remarkable talent to play the piano. And he told me something unusual. This was the only song he knew how to play. He never took lessons, he didn’t study music. He explained that, as a kid, he spent a lot of time alone. His parents had a piano, so he taught himself how to play that song – only that song. So, apart from the occasional show off session at church social functions, his talent was useless. It served no productive purpose. In addition to being really unusual, it always seemed like such a waste to me. Obviously he had some natural ability. If he had honed those skills and invested his time and energy in something in addition to that one song, who knows what he could’ve done?

Many leaders are “one song leaders.” They have one skill; one talent. Maybe they can sing well or preach powerfully or perhaps they are a good-looking person with a magnetic personality. They ride this talent as often and as far as they can. But much like the guy who could play only one song, they are limited in their effectiveness because they never develop anything more than their “go to” skill. They are able to put on a show, and initially attract a crowd, but eventually people get used to the same old offering and begin to ignore him or her.

Here is the sad part. That guy kept playing that song although people were no longer impressed. This was the only way he knew to get attention, and it no longer worked. I wonder how many of us are still doing the same thing that used to work – but it no longer works? Listen, sometimes, what was effective 10 years ago may no longer be effective today. That is why good leaders grow. They develop new abilities. They are smart enough to recognize when the same old song isn’t cutting it anymore.

Leaders, this is no time for pride or stubbornness. If what you are doing is not working, you need to adjust. If you find fewer people willing to follow, learn a new song. Even better, learn how to “play the piano”, not just one song.

Who Should Be A Pastor? (10 things a pastor must be able to do)

There are a few jokes about the perfect pastor that continue to make the rounds:

35 years old with 30 years experience.

Doesn’t dress too flashy or too trashy.

Has a lovely but modest wife, and 1.5 well-behaved children.

Can preach, teach, sing, play, administrate, cut grass, clean toilets, visit all the sick and elderly, attend all the church kids school plays and ball games and find time to pray for 3 hours every day.

These are jokes.

But it’s not funny when we see a person trying to serve as a pastor when they lack some basic necessary gifts and abilities.

From my 30 plus years in ministry, I have a few (10 for now) indispensable skills a successful pastor must possess. Please, let’s take some for granted. In other words, don’t scold me for omitting praying or whatever. These things are obvious. The points I want to cover may not be as obvious.

1. Must be able to personally lead someone to Christ. It is shocking to learn that some pastors have never led anyone to salvation outside of a church service. If the pastor doesn’t, the people won’t.

2. Must be able and willing, even eager, to work hard. Sometimes the work is manual, sometimes it is intellectual, but it is always strenuous. In my opinion, pastors cannot work less than 50 hours per week on average if they hope to build a growing, effective church. While we must prioritize our family and health, excessive television, golf, napping or any other “recreation” is a sign of slothfulness. Please don’t be guilty of adding to the “lazy preacher” perception. Of course the above numbers are considering full time pastors.

3. Must be humble. Arrogance, pride and an inflated ego by a pastor will destroy a ministry quickly. Get over yourself.

4. Must be a learner. Whether the education is formal or informal, there is no space for intellectual anemia. You never know it all so learn until you die. You speak on behalf of God; know what you’re talking about.

5. Must not be a racist. Now, this should be a given, but it is not. Pastors cannot discriminate against people of other races or nationalities. Mistreating anyone is not allowable. If you cannot love all people equally, and minister to anyone, you disqualify yourself from effective ministry, and perhaps Christianity altogether.

6. Must be compassionate. Some score higher on the mercy scale than others, but a hard-hearted pastor is an oxymoron. Shepherds must care.

7. Must value other generations. If you can only lead people who are close to your age, you have a very limited harvest field. If multigenerational ministry doesn’t come naturally to you, work on it. The long term effectiveness of your ministry is at stake.

8. Must not fall in love with methods, style or genres. If you simply must preach a certain way, or if you only allow a certain type of worship music, or if you insist that church ministry be conducted in your preferred method, perhaps there is an ownership problem. The ministry does not belong to you; the ministry belongs to the Lord. God never changes. But times change, people change, and what’s effective in ministry changes.

9. Must be accountable to and for others; must be responsible to and for others. Independent pastors (those who answer to no one) are operating outside of biblical guidelines. Followers should not follow this type of a leader.

10. Must be able to increase the impact of the church they serve. If a pastor cannot lead the church to grow, the church will die. A pastor that leads a church to die isn’t a good pastor.

Well, there is the list of 10. Of course, there are tons more, perhaps they will come in the future. In the meantime, pastor on!

5 Quick (and Easy) Things You Can Do to Improve Your Leadership Skills

design1. Strategic Reading. No one who leads has a lot of extra time to read everything. And so much of what is available is redundant or shallow. Find your theme, do your research and read. Read less but read deep. Don’t try to retain everything or read too much, but read, and do so strategically.

2. Network with Similar Souls. You need to know you’re not alone. Isolation is dangerous. You need to be encouraged and you need to encourage another leader. Find a friend with whom you can commiserate. Make one another better.

3. Network with Someone who is Different. Don’t sleep with the enemy but find someone who opposes you, stands for the “other side” of things. Don’t argue; dialogue. Don’t seek to change them, seek to gain info, understand more deeply, and learn.

4. Commit to Grow (until you die). When you stop improving, you start failing. Keep learning new things; stay challenged. This requires humility and passion.

5. Serve someone. Don’t look for someone who can pay you back. Don’t serve to be seen. Find someone who doesn’t deserve it. Serve them. Keep quiet about it. Service is the core of leadership.

Ok, I misled you. I said in the title that these things are quick and easy. They are neither. In actuality, these things are hard, sometimes very hard. However, the more you practice them, the quicker and easier they will become. And the impact they will have on your leadership skills makes them well worth the effort. Put them into practice, you and those you lead will be glad you did.

Encouragement for the Dis-Couraged Leader

designI purposefully hyphenated the word discouraged.

The prefix “dis” is defined this way: “a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force.” (dictionary.com)

So, a person who is discouraged is the opposite of courageous. Perhaps not cowardly, but certainly far from brave.

Unfortunately, this describes many leaders I know. Confidence eludes them. Optimism is a million miles away. Is this because they are poor leaders? I don’t think so. I think the source of discouragement is much deeper than a performance consideration. But rather than dig into the cause of discouragement for leaders, I want to spend a moment exploring reasons to be encouraged.

Think about this:

You see only with your eyes. The true measure of your work is probably unseen physically but it is revealed spiritually. In other words, you don’t know the good you are accomplishing. Don’t get too down over a lack of measurable progress. I think you are having a greater impact that you realize.

You are not called to be successful in the eyes of the world; you are called to be faithful to your God. Our culture measures success by the amount of money and fame we possess. Like the weather, these things can change in a moment. God defines success by faithfulness. You’ll never be a celebrity, but you will be rewarded for obeying the Lord – whether or not you are famous.

You are not alone. Leading is the loneliest job in the world and sometimes the solitude can result in discouragement. Jesus has promised to be with you to the very end. And you have colleagues who care about you. Maybe they are too busy to let you know, but you are important to them. And by the way, don’t be too busy to check in on your leader-friends.

Your discouragement can actually become a tool to help others. Most of the people you lead are currently dealing with a similar issue. They are looking for a way through the puzzle. Who better to lead them than one who has recently escaped from the maze of discouragement? If you stay stuck in the trap of being downcast, they will stay stuck with you. Lead yourself and others out of the cloud of discouragement.

Your hard work and dedication will eventually pay off. One of the sources of discouragement is fatigue. We simply get tired of pushing the rock up the hill with no end in sight. Anybody can be happy when everything is going well. But true leaders have to forge ahead against the wind and in the face of lots of opposition. This can wear you down. But please be aware that the investments you are making now will have big results. It is a spiritual law that cannot be broken – you reap what you sow. If you will be faithful, even in the little things, God will multiply it.

One day, when the journey is finished, I believe that you will receive the ultimate affirmation. The Scriptures tell us that, if we remain faithful, we will stand before the Lord and will hear His words: “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in the small things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter in to the joy of the Lord!” How awesome is that? While you may not see the finish line, it’s close. Don’t give up!

Rather than offer a lot of spiritual-sounding clichés, here is something practical: It’s the leaders in the world who make things happen. It’s not easy (it if was, everyone would do it!). If you are compelled to be a leader, you must lead. The only other option is quitting and then you become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Steel yourself; prepare your heart. Strengthen your backbone. Develop greater courage. And if you need help with this, reach out to another leader. They get what you’re going through.

Finally, glean from the truth of this passage: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” (Psalms 43:5)

Dis-Couraged Leader, encourage yourself! Lead on!

Can Kickers, or the Hezekiah Syndrome: Selling out Future Generations

27459680_10156150146009214_7268989353369031812_nIt’s commonly referred to as “kicking the can down the road.” This is when a leader refuses to deal with an issue that will have negative ramifications – later. The idea is, as long as I am gone when everything hits the fan, I’m good with that.

One of the most notorious cases of “can kicking” happened a few thousand years ago. The Bible tells the story of King Hezekiah who foolishly showed off all of the national treasures to visitors from a distant land. Isaiah (who was a prophet) addressed the trouble that would come as a result of Hezekiah’s mistake:

Then Isaiah spoke to Hezekiah, “Listen to what God has to say about this: The day is coming when everything you own and everything your ancestors have passed down to you, right down to the last cup and saucer, will be cleaned out of here—plundered and packed off to Babylon. God’s word! Worse yet, your sons, the progeny of sons you’ve begotten, will end up as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”19 Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “If God says it, it must be good.” But he was thinking to himself, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” (II Kings 20:16-19 MSG)

This is a little shocking. How, in good conscience can a king show such disregard for his family and descendants?

Take another look: Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “If God says it, it must be good.” But he was thinking to himself, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” In other words, I really don’t care about what happens to people in the future – I’m OK.

Prototypical “kicking the can down the road!”

In a nutshell, here is the root of the Hezekiah syndrome:

Selfishness: when leaders care more about their wellbeing than that of those they lead, the phenomenon occurs.

Shortsightedness: when leaders can’t anticipate the long-term results of their decisions, those in the future may suffer.

When leaders don’t care about those who will come behind them, careless and even cruel decisions can be made.

When leaders are too weak to make decisions that are good for their progeny, the Hezekiah syndrome will reveal itself.

And this last “root” is worth focusing upon.

It is possible that leaders in 2018 may make decisions (or refuse to make decisions) that will hurt their children, grandchildren and many generations to come. If I am hurting the future by ignoring an issue today, shame on me.

If you are a leader and you observe a problem that may hurt others down the road, and if you have the capacity to address that problem, it would be a dereliction of duty to let it go. True, the results may not come about on your watch but it is immoral to be able to prevent future pain and not do so.

Leaders, our children need us to be strong. Our grandkids are counting on us having a backbone. If we see a problem that is fixable, fix it!

Now, apply the principles of the Hezekiah syndrome to your family, your business, your church, your community, your country… Your descendants will thank you!

The Pain of Weak Leadership

designWe have studied the leadership principles that state, “the leader sets the pace of the team.” Another way of saying this is, the quality of the team is determined by the person who in charge. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, I believe the principle is true.

I firmly believe that the pain of our current culture is an indication of weak leadership. While no elected official has the power to stop a mass murderer or to prevent natural disasters, leaders have the responsibility to affect positive influence to the point that the culture shifts in a positive direction. The current trend of our culture indicates, in my opinion, weak leadership.

The world is screaming for stronger leaders, integrous leaders, leaders with character. And more leaders!

What happens if we don’t respond?

Proverbs 29:2 “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” NLT

This is a season of groaning. Our flags remain at half-mast much of the time. Rather than moving the people toward God, many leaders divide the people, bicker over political ideologies and posture themselves in an effort to look good. When things go wrong, people need someone to follow. Huston Smith said, “The most powerful moral influence is example.” People are desperate for someone to lead them out of this state of horror. Godly example is what we need. Where are the leaders that God has called?

We can’t blame the current leaders – they have simply stepped up to lead when other more qualified people have refused to do so. (See Judges 9:8-15) If we must blame someone, perhaps we should blame the strong people who are called to lead but refuse to do so.

And leaders – when we complain about our families, communities churches, or country – we must realize that we are incriminating ourselves. If the organization that I lead fails, I must assume the responsibility to fix it.

I’m calling out my friends. If God has compelled you to lead – please do so at the highest level possible. You’re not the leader of the free world but you lead your family. You can’t impact global change but you can lead your church to renewal. You can’t solve the world’s pain but you can lead yourself in being a stronger and better person. This is not a time for leaders to take a back seat. We can’t retreat. We can’t burn out and leave the task to others. The world can’t take much more of this.

“Someone must do something!” That someone is you.

11 Reasons Why Introverts Sometimes Make the Best Leaders

designHow necessary are charisma, extroversion and a dynamic personality in the life of a leader?

Some folks prefer to be alone – and some want to be left alone. Occasionally, these folks are expected to lead others. While this arrangement may seem awkward, I have seen it work very well and have observed a few introverts enjoy remarkable success as leaders.

On a side note, some who identify themselves as an introvert are not. One indicator that one is an introvert is they do not want the focus to be on them. The limelight is painful for them. Those who continually indicate that they are introverted are probably seeking attention from others. Insecure, maybe, but not introverted.

So, why do some introverts make great leaders?

  • Some introverts don’t want the credit. When things work well, they are happy for the team to get credit. This is compared to the “attention hogs” who grab the credit when they can (and are mysteriously absent when a project goes south and someone needs to own up to the responsibility).
  • They would rather work behind the scenes. They don’t mind doing the thankless tasks and they recognize that true leadership isn’t always glamorous.
  • They can work in isolation without the need for a lot of interaction. The long hours of leading can be very lonely. Introverts can live without the constant chatter of the crowds.
  • Some introverts need less affirmation, unlike extroverts who sometimes look for appreciation and recognition from outside sources.
  • They would prefer not to be the topic of conversation. They do not want to be perceived as conceited or egotistical, so they’d rather allow other people to talk about themselves.
  • Introverts can be more observant and perceptive. Because they aren’t focused on themselves, they are sometimes more aware of the needs of others.
  • “Introverts listen before they speak. They watch from the sidelines and take some mental notes before they insert themselves into any social situation. This preparation allows them to enter a conversation confidently, without stumbling over their words or doubting the accuracy of what they say.” (Dan Wallen)
  • They are generally self-sufficient and independent. While this trait can work against a leader, when properly channeled, it can result in great personal strength.
  • They may receive joy and fulfillment from serving others – anonymously.
  • They focus on internal feelings rather than on external sources of stimulation. They may appear to be steadier than their gregarious counterparts.
  • “They focus on details. Introverts do not rush when making decisions because they prefer to study and understand the situation thoroughly. They can be rather objective and see the different angles and viewpoints in every situation. They can also control their emotions and not let their feelings affect their rationality.” Dan Fries,

A little advice:

Introverts, let your strengths work for you, rather than against you. Understand that you must engage with others if you are to influence them. Don’t allow your more reserved nature to be mistaken for intimidation or ego. And please, be yourself – but lead! The throngs of outgoing followers in the world need you!

Avoidance Coping by Leaders (or when leaders refuse to deal with problems)

design11There are some pretty heavy psychological observances that can be employed when studying leadership. At the risk of overanalyzing, we are considering what causes some leaders to refuse to deal with failure. I define failure in this instance as the lack of taking a group or organization where God wants it to go. While I certainly am not the ultimate judge of the leadership effectiveness of anyone, I do have the responsibility of helping some leaders be as efficacious as possible.

Diversion may be defined as something that takes attention away from what is happening. When leaders are diverted from their primary task, the organization under their care suffers. We have all witnessed this. It’s interesting to observe leaders who are serving organizations that are failing, but the leaders don’t focus on the solutions. A tendency of some leaders is to concentrate on something else and, thereby, deflect the attention that may reveal that they are neglecting their duty. The focus that is required in order to solve the issue is lost.

We leaders may be like the bird dog described by Aldo Leopold:

“I had a bird dog names Gus. When Gus couldn’t find pheasants, he worked up an enthusiasm for Sora rails and meadowlarks. This whipped-up zeal for unsatisfactory substitutes masked his failure to find the real thing. It assuaged his inner frustration.” (A Sand County Almanac, p. 200)

Another example may be (hypothetically, of course!) a pastor of a shrinking church that chooses to spend his or her time debating politics or bemoaning the decline of the culture or criticizing the church members. In the few precious hours of leadership influence they have available, they point out the faults of others. I do not think that these leaders are necessarily malicious. I believe that diversion is a tactic that some leaders employ because they simply don’t know what else to do. They are frustrated by their failed efforts to fix their organization and they are compelled to do something. So, blaming others, attacking others who are having success, minding the business of others and conflicting with team members becomes their default response.

To refer again to a psychological term, rumination “refers to the tendency to repetitively think about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one’s negative emotional experience (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991)” (psychologytoday.com). When people engage in rumination (overthinking) they are typically trying to think their way out of uncomfortable emotions. This is in the place of focusing on solutions to the problems. It can be easier for a leader to come up with reasons rather than answers. There have been times in my experience when I have spent more time blaming my predecessor, analyzing the dysfunctions of the organization and justifying my lethargy rather than working toward resolutions for the problems at hand.

Avoidance coping is a maladaptive coping mechanism characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor. (mentalhelp.net) A distraction or a non-essential issue can steal the attention of a leader, especially when she is under stress. It can be relieving to think about another topic rather than to continue to wrestle with one’s own problems.

Then there is the more diabolical diversion tactics. If a leader under duress can create a diversion that will focus the attention of followers on someone or something else, the pressure can be alleviated. We’ve seen this personified in blaming/projecting (pointing at others as the problem), distracting (changing the subject or avoiding confrontation) and procrastinating (putting off the inevitable).

Some unscrupulous leaders are masters at clouding the issue or offering a “red herring” – misleading or distracting from a relevant or important issue. Slight of hand or misdirection is useful in magic tricks and sports but it has no place in the leadership of an organization.

A railroad engineer is at the helm of the train, which is speeding out-of-control down the track. As it heads toward the train station where, short of preventive maneuvers, lives will be lost, the engineer discusses the poor condition of the tracks, the outdated equipment of the engine, the bad attitudes of the passengers and the lack of wisdom of those who chose to build the train station in that location. What he needs to do is hit the brakes; but instead, he focuses on things that are out of his control. The result is devastation.

Leaders, we are the engineers. The train is our organization. Let’s take ownership. People are desperate for leaders who can identify the solutions to problems and to lead the organization through the crises.

You’re More Influential Than You Think

design[4].pngMost of us sell ourselves short. We think we’re not making much of a difference. We assume that other people aren’t all that impacted by what we do. Let’s discuss it.

I believe you influence more people than you think and I believe you influence them in a deeper way than you might know.

Think about it:

  • Those whom you don’t know but know you; maybe the two of you never speak. It could be a neighbor or a friend of a friend. It could be the barista or a flight attendant. Just because you don’t know them doesn’t mean that they are unaware of you. They have an opinion about you.
  • Those you know: maybe those with whom you work or play sports or go to church. You impact them. You may think it is no big deal but if you interact with them, you are making some kind of difference in their life.
  • How about those who know you the best? Your spouse, parents, kids, best friends… I’m sure you are aware that you influence them but maybe you don’t know to what level. I can assure you – your impact on their lives is massive.

The purpose of this post is to help us take full advantage of the relationship opportunities we’ve been given.

You see…

Influence can be positive or negative.

Every word you speak, your body language, even the clothes you wear are noticed. If you return the shopping cart to the corral or don’t pick up after your dog, people notice. I realize we can’t live in the bondage of trying to always leave everyone with a positive impression. But how you treat people matters – a lot. They either feel better or worse after interacting with you.

You are an influential person. I encourage you to use that influence for good; make a positive difference. The world and the people in your life really need it.

Minister’s Manual, 2016 Version. (This ain’t your grandma’s church!)

I was reading again Henri Nouwen’s classic, “The Wounded Healer.” His introduction mentions the need for a more relevant version of the old Minister’s Manual. The old ones were a sort of “how to” guide or “Ministry for Dummies” approach to local church functions. They were a very practical and helpful resource for younger pastors just getting started.

Traditional ministerial handbooks included sections on

Hospital visitation,

How to perform a wedding,

Conducting funeral services,

Administering the sacraments and so on.

Back in the day, a pastor could navigate his way through a variety of ministry situations with the aid of a good Ministers Manual. I have 2 or 3 on my shelf and they are collecting dust.

Today’s pastors certainly need to know the things expounded upon in these Manuals. But wow, has ministry ever changed!

I would suggest the need for an updated Minister’s Manual. But the chapter titles have to change to reflect real life situations that pastors face in a post/Christian culture. Some of the ideas below are an attempt at humor; some are more poignant. Some will only be grasped by pastors serving in a local church setting. But they all are a commentary on how the world and, therefore, ministry has changed.

ministers manual-1-1

Modern ministry manual:

Chapter 1: When to call the cops, when to run for cover.

Ch. 2: Addictions: Everybody’s Got ‘Em.

Ch. 3: Breaking up a Fight at a Funeral.

Ch. 4: Kevlar, the Pastors Best Friend.

Ch. 5: Mental Illness: The New Normal.

Ch. 6: How to Tell the Difference Between Crack and Heroin.

Ch. 7: Is that Elder Packing Heat?

Ch. 8: The Tatooathon Youth Fundraiser

Ch. 9: The New and Improved Bullet Proof Pulpit.

Ch. 10: How to Preach a Sermon Without Offending Everyone.

Ch. 11: Xanax, a Pastor’s Best Friend.

Ch. 12: Yes, it’s a “Please Me” Culture; Now Get On With It

Ch. 13: When Your Board has Your Back, but they’re All Carrying Daggers.

Ch. 14: How much is too much therapy?

Ch. 15: Just Say “No” to Talking to the Opposite Sex (and to some of the same sex.)

Ch. 16: “Don’t take it personal but I hate your preaching!”

Ch. 17: Keep your hands out of the Offering Plate!

Ch. 18: Why You Keep an attorney on Retainer.

Ch. 19: Can I Write Off my Punching Bag?

Ch. 20: How to Baptize Cats Without Losing a Eye.

Ch. 21: 3 Points and a Tear-Jerking Illustration in 15 Minutes or Less.

Ch. 22: Think you can Make at least One Person Happy? Think Again.

Ch. 23; How to preach like Andy, Joel and T.D. and still be True to Yourself.

Ch. 24: How to Compete with Youth Sports, nice weather, bad weather, the beach, the boat, sickness, health and a thousand other things that keep people out of church.

Ch. 25; Leading People who Never Go Anywhere.

Ch. 26: When to empty your hate mail email folder.

Ch. 27: How to include every possible music genre in every worship service without anyone complaining.

Ch. 28 Yes, chronic insomnia is perfectly normal for Pastors.

Ch. 29: “Meat of the Word” Smoothies.

Ch. 30: Why people don’t believe it when you say, “your best days are ahead!”

Ch. 31 Preach the Gospel even if they kill you for it. And they might.

You get the idea. Ministry is different today than it’s ever been before. That’s because the world is different than it’s ever been before. I don’t think it’s necessarily harder than before. Recall, there have been Christian martyrs for 2,000 years. But for sure, these are unique times. Some of us are waiting for everything thing to get back to normal. My advice? Don’t hold your breath; it’s not going back.

Stay strong.

Don’t quit.

You are called to this moment.

God is faithful and He will come through. We don’t know for sure what that means but we know He will come through.

Hang tough modern pastor!

What do you think? Do I have a new Ministers Manual in the works?

Leadership Discretion Advised

Leadership Discretion AdvisedA few years ago, I posted a light-hearted social media comment about my favorite sports team that was headed to the World Series (go Cardinals!) I jokingly inferred that I might pray about getting tickets to one of the games. I thought very little of it (first mistake) and assumed it was humorous (second mistake.) Shortly thereafter I receive a private message from a colleague who is a few years my elder. He wisely advised me to consider the people I lead as regarding my recent post. His comments went something like this: “Recall that there are men under your leadership who are having a difficult time taking adequate care of their families because of financial limitations. Some are working two or three jobs to pay the bills. Also consider that these families sacrifice some of their income to send contributions to our denomination to support our leaders, like you. Considering the extreme cost of attending a World Series game, some of your team members may be offended that you are willing to spend so much money on a ball game when they can’t buy their kids new shoes. I would encourage you to use great discretion. You have influence, you don’t want to waste it.”

Wow! This man was a true friend that cared enough to share valuable wisdom with me. I received it and thanked him. That has been a couple of years ago but I still recall the conversation, often. I realize that some will come to my defense, will think that this guy should mind his own business and that I have the right to spend my money the way that I want. But, as a leader, I disagree. I must be conscientious. I must be aware of others. I must be willing to sacrifice some of my liberties if I am to be an effective leader. I must use discretion. If you feel as though what you do is no one’s business, you need to take a look at Biblical leadership and Christianity in general. We are responsible for and accountable to one another.

Just last night, I was making some observations on Facebook about a very popular football game. I was trying to make some life and leadership analogies by pointing out the failures of a particular player. You guessed it; some people were upset and offended. I now had three choices: defend myself and blast those who were offended, ignore those who were offended, or apologize. I chose the latter and removed my post. Like it or not, my role as a leader is more important than nonsense talk on social media.

As leaders, everything we do is examined under a microscope, as well it should be. The Scriptures tell us in James 3:1 that leaders (teachers) are held to a higher standard. Of course there can be excesses with this idea and some only want to place impossible expectations on those in authority. But the principle remains true: anyone who wants to lead must be willing to use a different filter for decision-making. Don’t misunderstand – there are issues of morality that we must defend regardless of who agrees. However, the nonessential issues that sometimes separate people are just not worth it.

Leaders are entitled to opinions about everything but it is immature and arrogant to share every opinion one has. As the leadership level increases, so the level of filter needs to increase. Think about this: you only get so much input into the lives of others before they lose interest or they tune you out. What kind of information is worthy of your influence?

I can be right. I can be informed. I can even out-argue some people. However, there is a bigger concern. As a leader, how am I influencing my constituents?

My advice to you? Use great discretion. By the way, you are entitled to disagree with my idea, just use discretion when expressing your ideas. I’ll keep working on it from my end.

4 Essential Elements of Leadership

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I am delivering this lesson tomorrow to a group of ministry leaders. Rather than limit it to one presentation, I thought it may be helpful to readers of this blog.

Leadership is a trust. I Corinthians 4:2 “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Like other spiritual gifts, leadership is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:8 “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

The spiritual gift of leadership is closely related to the gift of administration and, interestingly, the spiritual gift of pastor/shepherd.  The Greek word for the spiritual gift of leadership is proistemi.  This word means to lead, to assist, to protect and to care for others. http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gift-of-leadership

The gift of Leadership is the God given ability to lead people to accomplish God’s vision and goals. The biblical image used when describing leadership is “shepherd”. A Shepherd does not force his will upon the sheep, rather he tends and cares for them. The sheep instinctively follow a good shepherd. Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”, and calls Church leaders his “Under Shepherds”. The “Under Shepherds” must faithfully follow the example of the “Good Shepherd” and lay their lives down for the welfare of the sheep (John 10:14-18). The person gifted by God with Leadership abilities, will display the same servant leadership principles evidenced by Jesus and the Apostles. (http://www.assessme.org/about/spiritual-gifts/leadership.aspx)

Like with others gifts, God expects us to nurture, explore and utilize the gift of leadership for His glory.

We have become stewards of the gift of leadership. We must make the most of it, as ones who will give an account to God. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. (If you don’t use what you’ve been given you may lose what you’ve been given.)

Are leaders born or made? “Leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders are summoned. They are called into existence by circumstances, and those who rise to the occasion are leaders.” (Leonard Sweet – Summoned to Lead)

Let’s be the best leaders we can possibly be for God’s glory!

 4 Essential -(imperative, indispensable, necessary_- Elements of Leadership:

Note that the title is 4 Essential Elements – not THE 4 Essential Elements. There are many more! In his book, Spiritual Leadership: Principle of Excellence for Every Believer, J. Oswald Sanders lists: discipline, wisdom, decision, courage humility, integrity and sincerity, humor, anger, patience, friendship, tact and diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, etc.

  1. Authentic

(adjective: not false or copied; genuine; real.)

Synonyms: credible, real, genuine, legitimate, pure, reliable, trustworthy.

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Paul’s declaration of authenticity: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4:9

“Followers trust leaders to lead. When leaders don’t lead, followers stop trusting their leaders.”

There is no leadership issue more important than trust. Without trust, we are not leaders.

Trust is fragile: it takes a lifetime to build trust and only a moment to lose it.

For discussion: Name some things that can compromise our authenticity:

  1. Visionary

The ability to look forward to God’s plan.

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Leaders must be solutions oriented; anyone can point out problems, it takes a leader to fix them.

“The term vision is a key buzzword in today’s ministry world.  I believe that vision is vital to your people seeing what “could be” – what our great God can accomplish through them (Eph. 3:20) in your ministry community.”  (Aubrey Malphurs –Advanced Strategic Planning)

Leaders must 1) accurately assess the current situation of the group they are leading, 2) discern where God wants to take the group and 3) implement the best plan in order to get the group there.

Vision is not just a pipe dream. Vision isn’t fantasy. Vision is not wishful thinking. Vision is hard work, directed by the Spirit, demands great sacrifice, requires faith and embraces risk.

Three of the most renowned Biblical visionaries: Moses, Nehemiah, Paul.  Study their leadership!

Visionary leaders must have foresight. “A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction to go. Foresight is the “lead” that the leader has. Once leaders lose this lead and events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only.” Robert K. Greenleaf

Leaders, ask of the group you lead…

  • What is?
  • What could and should be?
  • What will it take to make it happen?

For discussion: What are some of the things that may prevent leaders from being visionary?

What are some Biblical responses to these things?

  1. Industrious

 design[29](Paul) II Thessalonians 3:7-8 “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.”

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)

It is reasonable to expect full time ministers to work 50 or more hours per week.

Make the distinction between selfish ambition and godly ambition.

“Pastors of 50 or fewer people – if you work and pray as though you have 100 people, you may soon have.”

We must guard against time wasters: (social media, non-essentially long meetings, extended lunch or coffee breaks).

It is necessary to not only work hard, but to also work smart. Learn to utilize tools and innovations such as the Internet, teams within the church, and resources from other pastors/leaders.

Be diligent in your work for the Lord. We cannot hide laziness!

 For discussion: What things might contribute to the reputation that pastors are not hard workers?

  1. Spiritually Deep

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I Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (NIV)

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (NLT)

 

One of the most sobering identities of a leader: Example. People actually follow!

 Remember: As goes the leader, so go the followers.

“If the preacher always preaches shallow messages, the church members will never learn how to swim in the deep waters.“

It has been said, “Whatever you see exemplified in church members can be traced back to the pastor.” While there are exceptions to this statement, there are elements of truth to it.

A few indicators of spiritual maturity:

  • Stability – we will not be wishy-washy in our spirituality.
  • Humility – we think of ourselves less and others more.
  • Practicing sound doctrine – Not prone to flaky theology or bandwagon gimmicks.
  • Thick skinned (Not easily offended) – it is hard to hurt our feelings.
  • Faith – God has proven Himself over and over, we do not doubt Him!
  • Persistence – we refuse to quit.

For discussion: What must we do in order to assure our spiritual stability?

Conclusion:

Are you as effective as a leader as you would like to be?

In what areas is God speaking to you about your personal leadership development?

What is your plan of action?

Relational Leadership: Growing Beyond our Organizational Bureaucracy

IMG_021450 years ago, people were perfectly happy being treated like a number. Employees were expendable and assembly line workers were interchangeable. If you expected to be affirmed by your employee, well, that’s what a paycheck was for.

Today’s team members want to be valued beyond their monetary compensation; they rightfully expect to be treated with respect. Leaders can no longer be perceived as dictators. The days of the intimidating boss are fading and employees will no longer tolerate a company that undervalues their workers. In fact, most people no longer want to be seen merely as a worker or a cog in a corporate machine; they prefer to think of themselves as team members, vital partners, an important piece of the larger mosaic. Leonard Sweet says that, “people possess a desire for a higher purpose – a mission that will change the world.” By connecting with your organization, they can participate as a key component in a bigger mission.

If you are a leader, you must connect in a relational way with your team members. If your organization is too large for you to offer hands-on care for everyone, you must structure so that someone is doing hands-on care for everyone. Individuals matter!

Allow me to clarify a few things that are often mistaken for relational leadership:

  • Telling you what you want to hear. We must care enough to challenge one another to grow. Stretching is uncomfortable but a necessary part of personal and organizational development.
  • Always agreeing. Just because I disagree with you does not mean that I am a “hater”. Sometimes my love for you compels me to disagree with you. Relational leaders care enough to lovingly confront when necessary.
  • Presuming your leader to be all things to all people. We must have reasonable expectations. If your leader has 10 or more direct reports, she may not be accessible every time you need her. An extremely high capacity leader may be able to effectively connect personally with 50 or more people but you must not place them under extreme performance expectations as they relate to accessibility.
  • One-sided relateability. Relational leadership is a two-sided coin. If you expect your leader or team member to initiate every conversation, you need to further study communication. Two-way care is required. (Part 2 of this post will address relational followership.)
  • Organizational acquiescence. While modern thinkers need to know they have influence, they cannot expect everyone to instantly comply and conform to their ideologies. Regardless of how impatient we may become, deep influence and trust takes a lifetime to earn.

However, any leader that plans to remain effective must assume responsibility for building authentic relationships with their associates. People must know that they matter more than the organization. Regarding connectivity: as goes the leader, so goes the team.

We must grow beyond our organizational bureaucracy. In order for institutions to continue to survive they must embrace a systemic relational ethos. If you find yourself in a leadership conundrum where morale is low but angst is high, try making more relational investments in the lives of team members. Strategically and intentionally provide emotional equity; let them know you care!

You are important far beyond what assets you bring to your organization. Your value as an individual and friend far exceeds the contributions you make to the institution as a colleague, associate or employee. Relational leadership will affirm this over time.

On a more personal note, the organization that I serve (the church) is experiencing great transformation in the area relational leadership. Much of our structure is being evaluated and adjusted. We have as our model, the Lord Jesus Christ. He always put people ahead of the institution. In fact, the purpose of His structure was to serve individuals. The church must lead the way in growing beyond our organizational bureaucracy and embracing relational leadership.

(Len Sweet, Summoned To Lead)

Smart Things that Churches Should Do

Smart Things that Churches Should Do

Church is not a building or an institution. Church is people. Because church is people, we have the choice to either do smart things or dumb things. If we do smart things, more people can be led to Christ. Leading people to Christ is a simple way of describing why the church exists.

Here are a few smart things that churches can do that will lead more people to Christ:

Be intentionally multigenerational
Youth are not the church of tomorrow; they are part of the church today. We must provide the resources necessary to reach them now. Quality leaders, authentic compassion and giving them a voice in the ministry process will result in young people who connect with the church. Smart churches know this; they don’t just talk about it, they do it. They invest in young people. But they also respect older people. Those who have paid the price to help get us where we are now need to know that they are treasured. Smart churches value people even if they appear to no longer be on the cutting edge. Smart churches value all generations.

Stay out of ruts
Doing something simply because that’s the ways it’s always been done is the fast track to extinction. Hold to traditions and creeds but do so with purpose. Smart churches change in the right way at the right time for the right reasons.

Stay off of bandwagons
We always have something to learn from others who are succeeding but trendiness and fads can spoil ministry. It appears that God blesses different methods at different times but He doesn’t run out of ideas. Imagination and creativity are spiritual gifts. Smart churches don’t spend a lot of time and energy trying to be another church. Be original, innovative, fresh.

Be real
Speak the language of the people. Do everything with authenticity. Operate with impeccable integrity. Own up to mistakes. Repent often. Be transparent. Smart churches are not manipulative or condescending or disrespectful of people.

Perfect grace
Make room at the table for sinners. Don’t demand perfection. Practice forgiveness and model second chances. Smart churches know that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Reach as many people as possible
It’s OK to have a “target market” based on demographics. But smart churches don’t eliminate people because they don’t fit the niche. Specialty churches eliminate people who are different. Jesus doesn’t eliminate these people – neither should we.

Act outside of the local church
Embrace other ministries. Do life in the neighborhood. Minister with a global mindset. Be sure to connect with people outside of your immediate circle. It’s a big world and God is doing amazing things. Smart churches don’t want to miss that!

Promote justice
Don’t tolerate the mistreatment of the innocent. Stand up for victims. Speak out on behalf of the marginalized. Smart churches act as part of the solution to society’s ills.

Release people into ministry
We should encourage people to practice their spiritual gifts. Empower people. Entrust people with responsibility. Smart churches understand that every person and gift is necessary for a fully functioning church.

Be comfortable with not pleasing everyone
Smart churches know that they are not for everyone. Let people disagree and let some leave, if necessary. Pursue those God has called you to reach.

Insist that people dream
Life beats the hope out of people. Smart churches spend a lot of energy building up people. Encourage them to dream again, to chase the vision that God put in them. “Remember who you wanted to be.”

Know what we’re supposed to do and do it well
What is the end goal of church? Jesus summarized our job description in Matthew 28 by telling us to make disciples; we help people by showing them how to be authentic followers of Jesus. That’s it. If we’re smart, we’ll focus all of our attention on that task.

Smart churches do smart things and lots of people come to Christ. You and I are the church. Let’s do smart things.