Church planting

The Lonely Leader

Loneliness is a part of the human experience.

This doesn’t change when we become Christians nor does it suddenly go away when we answer the call to serve the Lord in vocational ministry.

No one knows this better than the pastors reading this. You know, and, thankfully, so does the Lord. When we feel lonely as followers of Jesus, regardless of our role within His kingdom, we have the opportunity to identify with Him.

No one knows what it is like to not only feel forsaken, but be forsaken, like our Lord.

The Apostle Paul got this and shared this sense of connection to Christ in his letter to His followers in Philippi. (See Philippians 3:10.) 

When it comes to loneliness, we all go there. None of us should stay there.

Pastor, here’s the BIG POINT: DON’T BE LONELY ALONE.

When we stay lonely alone, too long, we risk the real problem, isolation.

Proverbs 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

The root word in this verse is פָּרַד paw-rad’; to break through, spread or separate: disperse, divide, be out of joint, part, scatter, separate, sever self, stretch, sunder. (Strong’s, H6504)

We all face loneliness. However, isolation is a choice.

How do you know if you are choosing isolation as a leader? Isolation is characterized by numerous symptoms. These symptoms come on slowly but very surely.

Join us in The Lonely Leader – Part 2 coming soon as we uncover these symptoms together.

Until then, check out this great post that deals with the subject of loneliness in leadership by Thomas Rainer. https://thomrainer.com/2013/09/the-lonely-pastor-nine-observations/

Pastor, church leader, whoever you are…

You don’t have to lead lonely alone!

Viral Volunteerism Part 4

Unknown-1Viral Volunteerism Part 4 – Timing is Everything 

It’s been said that, “Timing is everything.” While it may not be everything, it does play a valuable role in gathering and keeping great volunteers in your ministry or organization.

Answer the following questions from the perspective of those you seek to engage as volunteers..,

When is the training? How long will it take? When training is involved, be clear about the investment of time this will take in addition to the actual event.

What is the prep or setup time? Cleanup/tear down? Follow-up? It’s easy to overlook these practical parts of the equation as “givens.” However, factor this in so that people have a realistic view of what they are committing to and how much time it will take.

When does it start? Your event or initiative isn’t likely the only thing people have going. Are other things in your ministry starting at the same time? Be clear about when their commitment begins so they can plan effectively.

When does it end? Remember, people have other places to go and things to do. This one is BIG!!! Create a culture where things “running late” are the rare exceptions.

When people know you value them and their investment, they are far more likely to partner with you. Few things say this like valuing people’s time. Create a culture where people can “set their watch” by the way you communicate and stick to the timing you have asked your volunteers to give.

Need some help taking your volunteers and teams to the next level? Let us know the best way to contact you in the thread below. Let’s partner together to take you volunteerism viral in the coming year!

 

Viral Volunteerism Part 3

Unknown-1Viral Volunteerism Part 3 – “Why should I?”

Who wouldn’t love to partner with more great volunteers? Getting and keeping them doesn’t just happen. You have to give great people a great reason to partner with you. Let’s get more specific about this by answering a simple question from the perspective of the volunteer… “Why should I?”

1) Answer the “why?” first. Don’t just show them the need, give them the reason. Paint the picture for them of what their effort means to the the need at hand and, more importantly, the people involved. Show and tell people how their involvement will make a real difference.

2) Crunch the numbers of the need. The more specific, the better. How many people are being affected? How long has the need existed? Where is “ground central?” What will the stats be in 3 or 5 years if nothing is done about it?

3) Set a clear goal. You may not be able to meet all of the need. However, what is your part as a church or organization? Again, be specific with your goal. How much money do you hope to raise? How many homeless care packets do you hope to make?

4) They need to “see it!” in person or at least video (or both). This is all about painting the picture of the “Why?” for those you hope to engage in the effort. Find those gifted at this and enlist their services from your hard-copy literature to your on-line presence, be sure to promote with honesty (don’t oversell it… people will see through this!), excellence and consistency.

 5) Finally, remember that information is inspiration! Consider using some type of graphic that tracks the giving or effort toward the goal and keep it updated. Don’t wait until the end to thank people for their investment of time, resources or money. Thank them for every step achieved towards the clear goal and then… celebrate the win!

Great volunteers will more often respond to a clear call for a worthy cause. Your job as a leader is to give them the reason why they should!

Need help discovering the “Why?” of your next effort or for your overall ministry or organization? Respond below with your contact information and let’s talk about how we can partner to take your volunteerism viral!

How to be a BIG Church

Unknown-12I Love BIG Churches – Part 4

How to be a BIG Church!

Bigger is always better when it comes to some things… but we aren’t talking about mere numbers. Regardless of the size of your ministry and the greater demographic you are hoping to influence, here are some ways you can go BIG for Christ.

5 Ways to be a BIG Church…

1) BIG prayer. You can be certain of this, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray!” (Charles Spurgeon) Fast and pray together in increasingly creative ways… 24hr prayer summits, days of fasting, scripture praying, prayer walls, stations and more. Simply put, you and your ministry family cannot pray enough as you align yourself with God’s unique purpose for you!

2) BIG worship. It doesn’t have to be a large venue or a long service to worship well and dive deep together into the Word of God. Make your times of gathering as a congregation a priority not only for you, but for those neighbors and friends you are inviting to join you. Give your best and make it all about Jesus!

3) BIG service. Who are you partnering with in your community to meet needs and be the hands and feet of Jesus? From a local school’s tutoring program to a homeless shelter, from a foster parenting group to a ministry fighting human trafficking, there are people with a heart for service you can partner with in your sphere of influence!

4) BIG giving. Don’t be afraid to inspire and inform often about the importance of tithes and offerings. Why? Because of the partnership potential it brings to the Kingdom of Christ. Keep the motivations before your people… from missionaries abroad to local and regional ministries, remind often that giving makes it go as God multiplies it for His glory!

5) BIG love. “Love one another.” The most influential thing any church has going for them is their capacity to love each other. People are attracted to people who genuinely care for one another, in spite of faults, failures and sins. Through small groups gathering often to simply being there for each other on a daily basis… leave no doubt in your communities mind that you are love by God and love one another in a BIG, BIG way!

Be BIG and go BIGGER and BIGGER in the ways that truly matter. The numbers will take care of themselves as people come to Jesus and you grow disciples who make disciples!

Here’s a BIG BONUS for small/medium sized churches… check out Breaking 200 Without Breaking You by Carrie Nieuwhof.

I Love BIG Churches 3

Unknown-11I Love BIG Churches Part 3

7 Myths about BIG Churches

BIG Churches really don’t need defended. So, why am I sharing this series of posts? Again, it is simply to help those who may be suffering from “BIG Church Bitterness” get past it and move on to fulfilling God’s unique call on their lives and ministries. Are some of the criticisms about “BIG Churches” warranted? Yes. However, I have found these to be the exception and not the rule. Only God truly knows the heart. Until then…

Consider these 7 Myths About BIG Churches.

1. “They don’t preach the Word.” By what metric do you base that on? How many of their sermons or teaching series have you personally engaged in? Could they simply have a different style than some of of us? Perhaps. To be honest, many pastors of larger congregations are simply better communicators. They have a leadership team and a strategy that allows, equips and insists on this. However, this doesn’t make them more or less true to God’s Word. I have sat under and followed closely BIG and even MEGA church pastors who preach expository while others preach topical. What most have in common is a love for the Word and real world application. Some insist, “They tell too many stories.” Do they? Maybe. Then, again, didn’t Jesus often communicate through story, parable and object lessons?

2. “Their worship is shallow.” I hear this one the most. “It’s too ‘showy’.” I wonder… is it ok for exceptionally gifted people to use their gifts for God’s glory? Can people who are professionally trained in music, staging, lights, sound & other forms of media serve the Lord and offer their gifts with a pure heart, or are they somehow unqualified due to too much experience? Sure, if a worship set somehow fails to even mention any member of the Trinity, there’s a problem. Just one more question… can we make too big a deal out of the biggest deal in the world? Should a “professional” level of investment only be reserved for the secular gatherings the majority of us often enjoy outside the church worship context? (concerts, movies, college & professional sports, fishing tournaments, NASCAR… just to name a few)

3. “Their people are only attenders.” Some probably are. Then again, having pastored churches from 9-900, I would suggest the percentages aren’t that different. “Pew sitting” can be just as prevalent among small churches as large. I have witnessed many in small churches who are too quick to give people credit by merely showing up. Choosing not to do anything but show up is a personal choice, regardless of context. One could argue that larger churches offer even more opportunity to be invested in serving Christ and the community.

4. “They steal most of their people from other churches.” This one might be my favorite. There are likely an exception or two out there. However, trust me on this one, few large church lead teams spend their days strategizing on how to gain more members from smaller congregations. They don’t have to. They are too busy strategizing and implementing the Great Commission. It’s true, people do leave smaller churches and join them in their vision. The question is, “Why?” Could it be because many Christ followers want to be where people are actively passionate about reaching the lost, making disciples and transforming a community?  “BIG Churches” often do this with a high level of excellence… and things like passion and excellence are very attractive and contagious to most people (saved or unsaved). God set it up this way… excellence and passion attracts, mediocrity and routine simply don’t.

5. “People are lost in the crowd.” True… but only if they want to be. Practically speaking we can only do life with a limited number of people, a small group, if you will. This holds true whether the larger group is 100 or 10,000. Could it be that there are even more ways and opportunities to be truly connected with others at larger churches? Maybe. Suffice it to say that we can choose to be connected or not regardless of the size of the greater group we worship with. The choice is ours. “But I feel like I’m not connected.” This is possible and, yes, easier in larger contexts. However, small or large, it’s hard to feel this way if you are plugged into a small group and actively serving with others. Most churches of any size offer these opportunities… and big churches offer all the more.

6. “Their leaders are all about the money.” True, they often talk more, promote more, preach and teach more about money. Then again, God’s Word addresses money and stewardship more than subjects like faith and grace combined. Could it be that they talk about money more because it takes more to serve the amount of people they are impacting? And, it’s true, BIG Church leaders almost always make more money. This brings with it the temptations that more money brings to every Christ follower. However, in my experience, few talk about how much they and their families give, invest and sacrifice on behalf of the Kingdom, least of all them. Rest assured, they will answer for their stewardship just like you.

7. “Their leaders are power hungry. “ Again, this is a ready temptation for any top-level leader. Still, it may be just as easy to be the “king” of a smaller church mini-kingdom among a smaller demographic… perhaps easier? Large church leaders often have far less hands-on management of the overall ministry than small/medium sized church leaders. This is by necessity. They more often have a high level of trust and investment in the leaders they lead who in turn lead others who then lead the members of the congregation. Some insist, “Yeah, but they aren’t real pastors, true shepherds of the flock.” I would submit that they are. They simply pastor a difference flock, namely, the staff and leadership flock. These sub-groups often comprise a group as large or larger than those of entire small congregations.

These are just a few of the BIG Church myths we could address. Whatever you do, don’t buy into them. Determine to be too busy fulfilling the Great Commission as a lead team to dwell on what others are or are not doing.

 

I Love BIG Churches 2

Unknown-4I Love BIG Churches – Part 2

4 Ways to Beat BIG Church Bitterness

It’s been said that, “A few apples spoil the bunch.” The big bad BIG Church reputation may actually apply to a few who have, unfortunately, earned it well. Still, I have found these to be the exception. Regardless, how we respond and relate to others is on us. Bitterness of any kind, for any reason, is unhealthy and quickly becomes a disease that infects a lead team (staff) and even entire church culture. So, what do you do with it once you recognize it?

Here are 4 Ways to Beat BIG Church Bitterness

1. Confess it. Get rid of it. You’ve held on long enough. Confess it to the Lord. Then, go to those you have spoken ill of and seek their forgiveness. Do the same with those you have infected and then repent of it. How? By speaking encouragement and blessing. Remember the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice…”

2. Pray for them. It’s hard to have bad feelings towards people you are sincerely praying for. I don’t know how this works, I just know it does. Pray those BIG Church leaders receive wisdom, faith, influence, blessing, peace and more as they serve the One they will ultimately answer to… just like you. Do this privately, do it as a lead team and even in your large settings, meetings and services. Remember, “What goes around, comes around.”

3. Learn from them. They may not always know better than you, but they might know some things you don’t. Maybe you know what they know and they have simply done what you haven’t? Either way, be humble enough to admit that they might know (and practice) somethings that may yet prove very healthy for you and your ministry culture. DON’T NOT BE AND NOT DO EXCELLENT THINGS JUST SO YOU WON’T BE LIKE “That BIG Church.”

4. Partner with them. Could it be that God’s people are better together than apart? Of course. And, I get it… different groupings of God’s people have and will exist until Jesus comes again. God uses them in unique ways to carry out His greater will. Still, aren’t there some things we could do better together to reach the lost and impact our communities for Christ? You won’t know until you try, until you ask. Take the lead on this…

Seek out that BIG Church leader. Encourage them, share concerns with them, pray for them. Yes, you will probably have to make an appointment. That’s just areality of leading a larger organization with a different system of doing business. Yes, it is a business… and, there is no more important business than the Father’s business. Jesus thought so. No, they may not be interested. However, imagine what God could do through His people if they did!

Whatever you do, don’t live and lead bitter. Let BIG Church bitterness go. It will only burn you and, worse, those you love. Refocus your energy. Big, small, mega, milt-site, home-based… there is so much potential yet to be realized as you invest in God’s unique plan for you and those you serve with!

 

I Love BIG Churches!

Unknown-2I Love BIG Churches: Part 1

Are You BIG Church Bitter?

We all know the story.  One of those “BIG Churches” starts growing and then explodes in number. They get bigger and bigger while other churches get smaller. Some even close their doors and it’s all the fault of that “BIG Church.” But, is this an entirely true story?

Why are we tackling this “elephant in the room” among church leaders? It’s simply because we want to see churches of any size grow and gain more and more influence for Christ in their communities! Who knows? If more leaders spent less time criticizing others and more time uniting, praying, leading, serving and simply being God’s people in their communities, maybe their own influence would grow a little more? Oddly enough I began working on this series over a year ago when I was leading a wonderful, smaller congregation and, having pastored two of “those BIG churches” (and now on staff at another “BIG Church”)… my heart hurt every time I needed to confront BIG Church Bitterness.

If you find yourself a critic of big churches, and an even bigger critic of “mega churches,” this mulit-part series may be for you.

Here are 5 Signs You are BIG Church Bitter…

1. You speak negative about their leaders. Do you find yourself questioning or, worse, condemning big church leaders for things like preaching too shallow or leading too “CEO?” Your inner narrative is even worse when you think about these leaders!

2. You speak negative about their people. Obviously everyone that attends “that big church” does so because they can stay anonymous. They show up for the “big show” and leave. They don’t have to be and aren’t truly invested.

3. You are convinced you are deeper spiritually. You wouldn’t dare say it, however, your leadership and your people are simply deeper and better followers of Jesus Christ. You preach, teach and practice the truth, the whole Gospel and they don’t. Besides, they can’t possibly be true to the Word and have that big of a following.

4. You are sure they make a bigger impact only because they are bigger (and have more money). Here’s a good question to ask yourself, “Can big churches do what they do because they are big… or are they big because they’ve done what they’ve done?”

5. You secretly wish you were like them. Someone once said, “Methinks he doth protest too much.” (Hamlet paraphrase) Of course, you aren’t one of these. Some leaders might, but you insist you would never want their level of influence or the responsibility that comes with it. You have never once coveted their salaries which, of course, are too big. Yet, for someone who doesn’t care about “that big church,” you sure spend a lot of time and emotional equity thinking and talking about them among your leadership and people.

Here’s the problem with these 5 signs… they are all sin. They don’t curry the favor of God and only keep His favor from flowing. Talking bad (often disguised as sarcasm) may score points with people who are quick to agree and then stroke the egos of their far more spiritual leaders, but God simply hates it for what it is… disunity. It’s one thing to critique leadership and organizational styles and systems, it’s another to get personal. I’ll refrain from the Bible lesson. Needless to say God’s Spirit and Word combine to oppose BIG church bitterness and the counter-productive culture it creates. If you truly love the Lord, His Body, and desire to reach the lost for His glory… you’ll stop.

It’s time to see that”BIG church” (and maybe yourself) in a different light. Ask yourself, “Am I BIG Church bitter?”

Coming up next in this series:

I Love BIG Churches: Part 2… How to Beat Big Church Bitterness.                                        I Love BIG Churches Part 3… Exposing BIG Church Myths                                                                                           I Love BIG Churches Part 4…Questions to Ask about BIG Churches

4 Preoccupations of Great Leaders

UnknownEveryone is preoccupied by something. What separates the difference makers from those who simply don’t comes down to what they are preoccupied with. Especially for those serving in ministry life, here are 4 Preoccupations of Great Leaders…

Who are we serving? It’s easy to get off-center and become a people-pleaser. Let’s face it, so much is tied to the support and morale of those under our influence. Are we called to serve a world of others? Yes. However, they shouldn’t be our deep motivation. Besides, falling in and out of favor based on the preferences of people is just a fact of life for leaders. Remember, what we do is ultimately done “as unto the Lord.” It is his “well done” that we are striving for and are living in by His grace, through faith.

Why are we doing this? Any leader worth their salt has looked toward heaven and asked, “What am I doing and why am I doing it!?!” While it may have become a little too familiar in leadership circles, knowing and constantly returning to our “Why?” is a healthy practice, essential, really. When I’ve found myself wandering and wondering as a leader I have returned again and again to thoughts that focus on the good of others, the health of my family and the glory of the Lord. What is your “Why?”

How can I help? We vision and value. We strategize and plan. We resource and equip. We do a lot of things  in the pursuit or our organizational missions. But, somehow, we can still fall short of leading effectively. Return often to a simpler place as a leader and ask those you have empowered, “How can I help?” We may just be surprised to find that some of what we offer is of little help. In short, let others help you help them.

Who’s next? Most of us are so preoccupied with answering,  “What’s next?” that we miss the more important and far more influential question, “Who’s next?” Who are investing in? Who are you developing, encouraging, helping to grow and get better, BE better? Whether you are just getting started or are coming down the final stretch, your season as a leader will pass all too quickly. There will always be something else, but there will never be someone else quite like you and, even more important, those you can and should be preparing to lead next. Invest in “Who’s next?” and the “What’s next?” will become far more effective.

What are your preoccupations as a leader? I would love to hear your thoughts below! Need some help discovering your “Why?” Email me at tompelt1@gmail.com and let’s talk about partnering to become a healthier leader.

 

Some Advice for Pastors – Part 3

IMG_8905I’ve saved the best for last piece of leadership advice for rookie to veteran pastors…

Lead your Family. 

I love to remind pastors to, “Pastor your home church first and best!”  Most in the room assume I’m talking about the congregation they lead. I’m not. This isn’t a plea to shepherd more diligently, to make another call, schedule another meeting or preach a better sermon. I’m not talking about church people at all. I’m talking about the gathering of people that meets daily in the sanctuary of your home… your spouse and kids.

Statistically speaking, close to half of the pastoral leaders reading this won’t finish their careers in full-time vocational ministry. This simply may or may not be God’s will for your life. What is God’s will for your life is to keep cultivating an amazing marriage and invest in your kids at every stage.

Here is something to help put things in perspective. Remember this phrase, “Fried chicken and potato salad.” What?!? That’s right, repeat it like a mantra. “Fried chicken and potato salad.” Face it. If you die today your staff, elders, and congregation will be eating fried chicken and potato salad in the fellowship hall within 30 minutes of your graveside service. Soon after they will have an interim pastor and, in no time, they will call someone else their pastor and move on with God’s greater plan for the church. That’s just how it goes and deep down you wouldn’t want it any other way.

But, what about your family? What legacy are you creating now and what will you be leaving then? What memories are you making? Don’t give me that bit about “quality time.” Quality time is quantity time! Especially for those of you with young kids (ok… or grandkids!) don’t miss the moments for the sake of another meeting. I promise you, I have never sat with a broken pastor who has lamented not spending more time at the church office or making another visit. There will always be another meeting but your kids won’t always be at home. And your marriage will not survive, let alone thrive if “the church” is your mistress and not your ministry. Never stop dating your spouse! Make those memories. Take the time, make the time and invest, invest, invest in your family. This is leading by example. This is leading well.

Yep… I saved the best piece of advice for last. “Pastor your home church first and best!”  

Some Advice for Pastors – Part 2

UnknownHere is my second piece of advice for pastors at any stage of your leadership journey…

Lead Your Team.

By leading your team, I’m not talking about visioning, strategizing, planning, resourcing, training, etc. There is no shortage of books, conferences, coaching, and more to help you lead well on these fronts. I’m talking about something far better… and far riskier.

I was a young, eager pastor, attending one of my first national general assembly sessions. I was a little in awe of seeing some of the leaders I had heard about and was determined to glean from their insights. I saw one such leader, Dr. Carl Flewellen, across the crowded lobby and walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Tom and I’m a new pastor. What advice would you give to a young pastor just starting out?” Without hesitation he put his hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Love’em. Just love’em!” This wasn’t the advice I expected, but just what I needed.

Anyone can attend a leadership simulcast and implement the latest in leadership principles with their teams… and I’m a big fan of stuff like this! However, if you aren’t wise enough and brave enough to truly get to know your lead team, their hurts and hopes for themselves and their families… you aren’t really leading to potential and your team is far less than they can be. You may be managing well, but you aren’t leading like Jesus. Dare to develop a relationship with them.

Know your team and care for them personally with the love and compassion of Christ. No, you can’t do this with an entire congregation (although you can die trying!). What you can do with your lead team (staff or lay-leaders) is to partner in far more than your organizational vision and values. Share their lives and they will be far more likely to share your vision.

Piece of advice #2 is simple… “Just love’em!”