encouragement

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!”  

5 Beliefs of Good Leaders

Unknown-2Are you up against something you don’t know how to handle? Is your church or organization stuck with what seems like few solutions?

Here are 5 things good leaders believe and say in tough times…

This is happening. The first people to face facts should be those tasked with leading. Look the problem square in the eye. Don’t let others around you deny the realities or even dumb them down. “It is what it is.” However, you know the deeper truth… it isn’t what it will be, either.

This is hard. Admit your limitations, even your fears. Size up the situation, not making it out to better or worse than it is. This is going to take sustained effort and a lot of focused energy. This won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had as a lead team. Roll up your sleeves and get to it!

God is able. It’s time to apply some stubborn faith. Refuse to give in to negativity and doubt. Start speaking a greater reality over your leadership, people and the situation. Rally around the power of the promises of God in His Word. Speak with the win that is yet to come in heart and mind. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV)

We can do this. It always takes more people (and time!) to get out of trouble than into it. Gather your leadership team. Take the best next step. Engage your people. Partner with experienced outside help through coaching. Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.

There is more. This ins’t the end. You will face this, get through this and you will move on to greater influence, challenge and success as you stay focussed on your mission. You will take a hit or two along the way. However, stay grounded with the humble knowledge that God will be true to His Word & see you through to the other side.

Believe it and speak it while you work it out together!

5 Focuses For Aging Leaders

images-11If you are a leader who recognizes they aren’t as young as they used to be, yet hope to invest in Christ’s kingdom more than ever, this post is for you. Here are 5 Focuses For Aging Leaders…

1) Focus on going and growing. Sure, you’ve been around a little more than most, but you haven’t seen it all, let alone learned or experienced it. Dig even deeper into God’s Word. Practice prayer as never before. Read the latest stuff and refresh yourself on the classics. Go to conferences. Audit a class. Stay curious. Take some risks. Ask more questions. Whatever you do, never stop going and growing. You’ve got some kingdom adventure left in you yet!

2) Focus on keeping up. The message you preach is timeless, how you communicate it isn’t. Each generation learns, leads, gathers and grows in a slightly or even significantly different way than the previous. Ignore this and, while your message may remain constant, your methods may cause some of that message to get “lost in translation.” Keep up, not to be “in” but, rather, informed as to how the emerging generations develop their world view. No, don’t try to be something or someone you aren’t. Do be mindful of how people are processing the eternally lifesaving message you are communicating. Need some place to start? Check out Relevant Magazine for some challenging perspectives.

3) Focus on encouraging others. You aren’t the only leader a little unsure about who they are or how much they are contributing. Gather with others who share the same stage in life with you and process it together. Pour your hearts out and laugh your heads off. Get down in the dumps and lift each other up. Don’t isolate. The reclusive “sage” is more the fool if they keep themselves and all God has graciously given to themselves. Find some friends, young or old, and encourage, encourage, encourage!

4) Focus on passing it up. The realities of aging demand you become selective. Anything new you say “YES” to will mean a qualitative and quantitative “NO” to something you are already investing in. Learn to say “NO” to more so that the things, or more importantly, the people you say “YES” to get the very best of your investment.

5) Focus on passing it on. What have you learned (the hard way!)? How can your experiences serve to encourage and equip those coming behind you? It’s past time to pass it on. Whether one on one or with a group, purpose to share what God has done in and through you and your ministry… the good, the bad and the ugly (especially the ugly).  Paul challenged Timothy with this concept. He said, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

You are meant to count more than ever for Christ and His kingdom! Embrace each stage of the journey in life and leadership. Focus on how you can invest more than ever in bringing glory to God and the good of others.

31 Tips for 2016 – #11

Unknown-1Here is Tip #11 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Say, “I don’t know” more often.

Just because we are the leader, doesn’t mean we know all the answers. People often come to us with questions because they make two assumptions…  1 – We know the answer and 2 – We understand the question (or the situation) to begin with. The fact is, sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t.

We need to avoid the temptation to look and sound competent when we simply aren’t. It doesn’t mean we are less of a person or leader, it just means that we are ignorant in the classic sense of the word… sometimes we simply don’t know.

Good leaders don’t give into an arrogance that demands to have all the answers, all of the time. Or, worse, to give the appearance that we do when we know we are clueless. We should be secure enough in who we are and the team that we have around us to admit that the best response to a question that stumps us is, “I don’t know. Let’s see if we can find that out together.” 

Saying “I don’t know” does 3 powerful things…

  1. Encourages a sense of team. No one has all the answers and we need the collective insight of others. No “one man show,” here.
  2. Engages team members. The answer may just be a question or two, a team member or two, away. Ask around and get others involved in the answer or solution. Collaboration is key.
  3. Empowers team members. Those with the answers may/may not be the one’s with the resources the answer requires. Either way, team members are brought around the table and then empowered to see that the question is answered and accompanying need is met. This is something that good leaders will acknowledge and celebrate!

Not feeling the need to have all the answers is liberating. Believe it or not, most people will respect you for it as a leader all the more. Why? Because they know you are no different than them, and they don’t know it all, either.

Grow your team by these three powerful words, “I don’t know.” 

4 Ways to Beat Bitterness

images-20What is it you can’t get past? Who is it that is really holding you back? Bitterness will do more than leave a bad taste in your mouth. Whether over something or someone, we weren’t designed by God to live bitter lives.

Here are 4 Ways to Beat Bitterness…

1) Confess it. You’ve been hurt, betrayed and are more than just a little angry. Start by letting the right people know. (Note: Venting on social media is discouraged… just don’t.) Begin by praying to God and seeking His grace to let go. Then, find a trusted person or small (very small) group you can process you pain with. Ask them to pray for you as you take the next step. Often, a professional Christian counselor can help you process deeper wounds that won’t go away with time.

2) Forgive it. Go to the source. Share your feelings with the person or persons you believe are at the root of your hurt. By the way, could one of those persons be you? We are rarely blameless when things break bad. Own your own fault and failures where they exist. If not, the only person holding you back is you.

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15, NIV)

Bitterness will burn you. Worse, it will spread to and burn the ones you love. Someone has said, “Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting our enemies to get sick.” It’s time to let go.

Seek them out. Let them know how you feel and why. Be specific. Then, let them know you forgive them. Say the words from the heart, and in person is always preferred.

3) Speak it. You probably don’t realize just how much you have been airing your grievance and airing your anger. Where once your bitterness consumed your thoughts and dominated your conversations, you now need to fill that void with words of encouragement, hope, gratitude, and more.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24, NIV) 

Purpose to talk about the good things of God and speak well of others.

4) Create it. You are a walking, talking weather system. You create your own micro-environment everywhere you go. When you are living bitter you are a perpetual cloudy day, raining on everyone’s parade, or a raging storm doing more damage than you know. Be intentional about thinking, speaking and acting with the grace that flows from the deep springs of a forgiven heart. What are you listening to, watching, streaming and downloading? Create light environments of praise and expectation. Remember, what you get into gets into you.

You don’t have to live stuck in the muck of bitterness. Find a trusted mentor or small group who will walk with you as you break free!

What would you recommend to someone struggling with bitterness? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…

 

 

5 Reasons Leaders Should Pray More

images-1Why should you pray more as a leader? Consider these 5 Reasons you should incorporate more prayer into the culture of your organization or ministry…

1) It’s not just any organization! Whether yours is a business you have dedicated to the Lord or you are a church leader… this isn’t business as usual. Be intentional about letting the CEO of our faith chair every gathering and join Him in the agenda He is setting.

2) You aren’t in control. We have a tendency to be “control freaks” as leaders. Prayer serves to keep us from over-reacting when we are reminded that we aren’t in control. We have been given a limited sphere of influence for an even more limited amount of time. Prayer serves to acknowledge this and turn control back over to the One who is.

3) You need to know what you don’t know. We also have a proclivity to be a “know it all.” However, we simply don’t. A simple and necessary prayer should be, “Lord, please let us know what we don’t know about…” This humble plea is an admission of our lack and God’s supply of wisdom. We are reminded, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) 

4) It’s what we do. Regardless of title or position, if you are a Christ-follower, then it’s just what we do… all the time. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is a short and sweet command for the lifestyle we have signed up for as Christians. Prayer doesn’t just happen. We are prone to substitute the “attitude of prayer” for actual prayer. Purpose to practice constant prayer in your personal, family and leadership life.

5) God only knows what’s next. We vision, plan and promote with excellence as leaders. Still, the hard truth is, we have no clue what is really going to happen next. This is on a need-to-know basis. Since God is the only one who knows, it would be a good idea to keep the communication lines open.

Why do you pray as a leader? What kinds of prayers would you suggest? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…

10 Ways Good Leaders Energize!

imgres-5We all hit “the wall” and find ourselves needing a little something to will us through. What if there was a way to never hit “the wall?” Sorry.  Anyone who promises you can live and lead without getting tired is selling you something. However, can you minimize your afternoon “blahs” or push through a late-night session and choose something healthier than jelly doughnuts? YES! Boost your energy and try these options I have found helpful the next few times you “hit the wall…”

Hydrate. This is as simple as it is essential. After all, you are mostly H2O. Before anything else (coffee, calorie laden “energy drink”) drink at least 8oz of the stuff you are made of towards a 64oz per day goal!

Snack. No, not a candy bar or pack of Peanut M&M’s (my personal weakness). Try fruit, vegetables,  granola, or almonds. These are the original energy snacks that are not only better for you in the long run, but will keep you from that sugar “crash” an hour later.

Get up & get moving. Take a few minutes and walk around your office, down the hallways, up and down a couple flights of steps, drop and do some push-ups, 25 jumping jacks (or “burpees” for you cross-fit fanatics out there), do some stretching. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there. MOVE!

Feel-good music. We call it “Getting your praise on!” in the church! Whatever works for you. Old-school to top-forty, classical to country, reggae to rap, jazz to  blues (okay, maybe not blues), or some funky combination of all the above. If it get’s your toe tapping, head bobbing, or working some moves only you can move…. turn it on and crank it up! For me, there’s nothing like the latest praise & worship with some David Crowder or classic Petra.

Encourage. Few things energize you like encouraging others. God has designed things so that it is virtually impossible to lift someone else up and not sense something rising inside of you. Go ahead, make someone’s day with a compliment or just to tell them how much they are appreciated for who they are.

Organize. This is code for cleaning and clearing your desk or work-space. Grab a trash can and attack that pile. File (or better yet, scan and save) important documents and throw away the rest. If you haven’t needed it in the last 30 days, you aren’t likely to need it anytime soon. Don’t let papers pile-up and clutter not only your desk but your mind. By the way… that whole “clutter is a sign of genius” thing is for the 1% that you and I are unlikely to qualify for.

Breathe. That’s right… take a deep breathe. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this three times and get your blood pumping oxygen rich!

Smile. Stop scowling. Raise your eyebrows. Lighten up and laugh at something or, better yet, at yourself!

Pray. We all need divine intervention. Read a favorite Psalm or Proverb. Then, ask God for the energy you lack and the motivation you need to press on. Remember, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2b, NIV)

Finally, make a list. The sense of being overwhelmed with no plan can zap your get-up-and-go. My wife is a master at this one! Take a few minutes and make a “To Do” list for the rest of the day or week. Put a couple of quick “wins” at the top of the list and find yourself getting pumped-up as you begin to check things off.

We all “hit the wall.” And, be honest, you know you should be doing these things. Next time, boost your energy with some of these healthy options.

“I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)