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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!

5 Steps to Delegating Well

images-1Leaders who intentionally create and actively encourage a culture of delegation, partner with and position their teams well for health and growth. Of course, too many leaders fear delegation for a variety of reasons and this keeps them, their lead teams and the organization as a whole from reaching their full potential. This doesn’t have to be you. Learn to multiply your influence through the power of delegation!

Here are 5 Steps to Delegating Well…

Step 1: Choose wisely

Resist the temptation to pick someone too quickly, just to meet a need and, let’s face it… get it off your “To Do” list.

Do your homework. Don’t accept the first person to eagerly volunteer or press someone close to you into service just to fill the void. Delegate the same way for a short-term project you would hire a full-time staffer, keeping a sense of calling, character, chemistry and competence in mind.

John Ortberg affirms, “I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion of leaving tasks in someone else’s lap doesn’t just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive.”

Step 2: Explain simply

Only expect people to do exceptionally what you have communicated exceptionally well. This is all about letting people in on just what they are getting themselves into. People are far more likely to partner with you if they are aware of the level of commitment they are agreeing to. This means explaining and putting into a simple document the who, what, when, where and how of the role they will be fulfilling and/or task they will be undertaking.

Step 3: Empower willingly

The extent of authority should match the breadth and depth of responsibility. Leaders that fail to lend authority to those they have tasked with responsibility find their pool of quality people drying up fast. Explain simply to those you are empowering and to all those they will be leading who reports to them and who they report to. We are all accountable. Resist the urge to micromanage or hover. Give them space to do what needs done. Remember, you have been lent power to lend power.

Step 4: Resource thoroughly 

You wouldn’t ask someone to drive a nail without a hammer or to bake a cake without flour. Don’t task people to do something without giving them the tools to get the job done right. While these should include tangible resources such as a specific budget, gathering/working space and technology, don’t overlook the intangibles such as the details they need to lead in an informed way.

Step 5: Follow-up responsibly

“How’s it going?” and “What can I do to help?” should be common questions you ask as a leader. Realize that if you have chosen quality people to serve they will be tempted to lead without seeking out additional advice or assistance. Be an occasional but intentional presence. Listen to concerns and lend a hand. Then, when the task is complete or the role has run it’s course, sit down to process the highs and lows and glean from the experience what you would or wouldn’t do again, what didn’t work and what did.

Oh… and CHEER WILDLY!

Be your team leaders, teams and volunteers biggest fans. Lead the way in encouraging and cheering on those you are privileged to partner with in seeing your unique mission fulfilled.

Learn the power and practice of delegation well and see the influence of your teams go farther than you ever imagined!

CRUSH Your 2018 Goals!

imgresHow can you not only meet, but exceed your goals for 2018?

Find a partner and use this GoalSettingGuide18 to help you discover your “Why?”… set your goals and then achieve them with confidence. This is a limited time offer so download it today and get on your way to realizing your goals for 2018!

You can do this! We can help.

Need a partner in life, ministry or organizational coaching? I would love to hear from you and discuss what a partnership might look like. Just let me know in the discussion feed below or email me at tompelt1@gmail.com and let’s get started!

The Shepherd CEO

UnknownTwo extremes pull and tug at most pastors, especially those that lead small/medium sized congregations . They may be called upon at any time of day or night to be one or the other. It can be as overwhelming as it is exhausting to find balance between caring for and leading the flock. In other words, being the Shepherd and the “CEO.”

The pastor as shepherd. This role calls on the pastor to be listener, comforter, intercessor, counselor, friend and more. While this can be as rewarding as any aspect of ministry, it can also be exhausting. Without some checks and balances pastors can easily find themselves suffering from compassion fatigue and worse, burn-out. This role isn’t isolated to the pastor and is shared in so many ways by spouses, kids and other ministry team members.

Still, being a shepherd never goes out of style. As a small church pastor I cared personally for the church one family, couple or individual at a time. When I was a large church pastor I was there for the staff, lead teams and their families who in turn cared for the larger congregation through small groups. To be honest, this is will always be the best method regardless of size… God’s people caring for one another! Regardless, the call to love the people we lead is still relevant, and always will be. Shepherding never goes out of style. Only the context changes with size.

Then there’s the pastor as CEO. Regardless of polity, structure and/or staffing, the pastor can’t ignore the realities of organization life (visioning, goal-setting, staffing, budgeting, planning, training, etc.). I have had the privilege of pastoring churches from 9-900 and the overall responsibility is the same, only the administrative method changes. For many in small and medium-sized churches, they often find themselves as their own secretary, executive assistant, administrative pastor and more all rolled into one. There is a better way and we would love to help you find it! (Let’s talk coaching!)

Whether you have paid staff or not to handle daily operations, the reality is that the church has a business side to it and it should be handled with a practical professionalism, and a lot of prayer! After all, administration is a biblical gift. For those with the benefit of dedicated staff for all the above, you still bear the responsibility of oversight, equipping and encouraging each leader and each area of ministry well.

Pastors have long since been tasked with leading as both shepherd and CEO. “Old school” pastors and churches emphasize one while millennial ministers and their ministries have trended to the other. However, both are vital to the health of the organizational culture and congregation.

Bottom line? Pastors must be all about the business of being there for people while simultaneously overseeing the nuts and bolts of organizational life. Both never stop begging for attention and deserve equal parts compassion and excellence.

The question is, how do pastors do this without losing it? Is balance even possible?

Share your suggestions in the reply section below. Need some help finding a balance or renewing your focus on one or the other? We would love to help you find a more effective balance. Let us know how we can help through an ongoing coaching partnership. Just reply, “Let’s talk coaching!” in the reply section below and we’ll get connected!

Lonely Leadership

UnknownLeadership can be a lonely life. Beyond the online image of big events, conferences, retreats, lunch meetings, speaking engagements and more… leadership can leave you feeling isolated and wondering if anyone “gets it” or the world you live in. It’s easy to find yourself increasingly lonely and longing for something missing in all of it.

My wife and I find ourselves in just such a season as I have “moved” to a new assignment while she finishes teaching at a university in another state. Not fun. So, I came up with 5 Ways to Beat Leadership Loneliness while battling a little loneliness myself…

1) Admit you are lonely. It’s okay. While you may be surrounded by busy people in the course of your work, you can still be starved for meaningful relationships that have nothing to do with meeting your next goal or pulling off that upcoming event.

Admit to yourself, your family and a few trusted friends if you find yourself growing isolated. And, while there is solace in solitude with the Lord, isolation is a different matter. Someone has said, “Isolation is the devil’s home court.” Admit it… you miss people. That doesn’t make you weak, that makes you human.

2) Know your limitations.

You crave relationship.That’s okay. We were created for it! No, you don’t need more work related interaction, you have probably had enough of that. You need people to share the real stuff of life with. You may actually find the extremes of busyness increasing right along with isolation in a bizarre and dangerous irony. How do you know when you are reaching an unhealthy place? Read on…

3) Know your temptations.

Loneliness can lead to lesser things, much less and much worse. Let’s face it, we are all tempted to self-medicate when we are in pain. The enemy knows this and will be right there to “help” with temporary “fixes” that distract from or make the pain of loneliness go away for the moment. Everyone is tempted by some of these… from comfort eating to extreme sports/exercising, pornography to workaholism, binge watching favorite shows to substance abuse, “retail therapy,” and more. How do you keep from falling into these traps?

Know what really tempts you and let a few trusted people in on it (Hint: They may already know!). Draw close to the Lord through worship and the Word. Bring others around who will encourage and hold you accountable. You can live above these temptations! Speaking of accountability…

4) Stay open.

We all need some “alone time.” However, again, it’s easy to become a “hermit” and simply shut out the rest of the world. Resist the temptation to get comfortable with being alone. Stay open to friendships and the accountability they bring. Seek out conversations about things that truly matter. Be willing to ask and, more importantly, be asked questions about your life and leadership. Be there for others as much as you need them to be there for you. Whatever you do, don’t get too used to leading and living as a “party of one.”  We were made for fellowship with God and others!

5) Be active.

Don’t be busy, be active. Find a few things that fuel you spiritually, emotionally, physically and relationally. Find some things you and your spouse, kids or friends also enjoy and get into it! I like to hike, write, work out, read, and a new hobby of kayaking… anything outdoors! Be intentional about carving out regular time to restore, even rest. You will be a better person for your family and leader for your church/organization as you stay active and healthy.

I’ll admit it… I don’t get lonely sometimes, I get just plain pathetic. I need the company of the Lord, my wife, my friends, and a long trail to wander on with them!

What about you? How are you actively beating leadership loneliness? Share your thoughts below…

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.

 

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!”  

7 Ways to Restore It!

imagesWhat do leading change and restoring old furniture have in common? When it comes to reworking a team, process or event, here are 7 practices I have discovered from refurbishing antique pieces (sometimes the wrong way!) to renewed beauty and use…

1) Start with the end. What do you want it to look like when the piece is finished? Will you be painting or staining? Flat or glossy finish? Will it be an everyday piece or only for special occasions? The same holds true for organizations and the programs within them.

Ask these vital questions and more before going to work… Why are we reworking it? Whom will it serve? What will it look like when fully functional? Start with the finish in mind.

2) Know before you go. In the same way it is vital to know the type of wood and grain you are working with, you need to know the people you will be teaming with towards your goal. Where do they come from? How are they wired? What “stains” do they have that go below the surface? Knowing before going will help avoid at least some of the inevitable challenges that are sure to surface along the way. How do you go about this? Keep reading…

3) Remove the layers. Just as there are often layers of finish on older pieces, there are always multiple layers of structure, training, experience, relationships and emotions that have become part of the organization, project or annual event you are reworking. It’s tempting to say, “What’s another layer?” and just add it on. However, over time multiple layers have a tendency to show themselves, and it isn’t pretty. They crack, chip, peal or wear thin due to repeated use. These must be removed with purpose, patience and care or you are only compounding the problem. “Un-learn” some practices and un-do some complicated processes during a season of training as you re-work your plan and, more importantly, patiently restore people to renewed purpose.

4) Look it over… again. Looking a piece over from a variety of angles and in different lights will give you the best idea of your progress at each stage. Don’t be afraid to get different perspective from a fresh pair of eyes. “You missed a spot…” isn’t always what we want to hear. However, these words may mean the difference between a job merely done and one that is done well. The same holds true for a ministry or business project. The more qualified input you have into the process, especially before you begin the restoration, the better the chances of success and the more creative the finished product will be. Consider the value of outside coaches to speak fresh perspective, challenge and inspiration into your team.

5) Test your finish. Know exactly what color and texture you want to use? Do yourself a favor and try it out in a spot other than the most visible surface. Sure, you can always re-sand or re-strip. However, each time you do this you are taking away something from the piece itself. This will be part of the final steps in the process as you avoid the temptation to rush the overall project.

When it comes to a process or event, try a test-run or “dress rehearsal” before the actual “opening day” whenever possible. Talk it through with the team at the very least. While perfection is never the goal, you want to put your best foot forward. Better to reset the launch date than to start poorly. Besides, “You never get a second chance to leave a first impression.”

6) Finish well. Finishing a piece includes the actual staining of a piece. Two thin but ample layers are always preferable to “laying it on thick.” The same holds true for preserving it with anything from a matt or satin to a high-gloss sealant. I liken this to the training needed before you actually implement a new structure or launch a new initiative.

Again, take your time and know that multiple opportunities for training, resourcing, beta testing will only make the actual launch more likely to produce the desired results. Make sure everyone knows their role and is well-equipped to perform with excellence.

7) Celebrate! Celebrate by putting the restored piece to use. The satisfaction of restoring old bookshelves is in seeing books, old and new, find their place on it. Or, in antique chairs filled with the people you love sitting around a table that will now host many a meal and meaningful conversation. This one is often missed.

Plan strategically to put the reformed structure, reworked plan, or a restaffed team to good use sooner than later. Capitalize on the momentum and excitement that restoring something to renewed use brings.

Remember that we all need refurbished, reformed and remade throughout life and the same holds true for the organizations we lead. Isaiah reminds us, Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)

How do you restore or refurbish a project or event? Who are the people involved and how can you invest in them throughout the process? Add your own advice on leading renewal in the discussion thread below…

Leading Culture On It’s Own Terms

fullsizerender“Trails are managed as part of the natural environment. Visitors must be prepared to meet and accept nature on it’s own terms.” 

I passed this sign countless times along an all too familiar trail, but never really read it. For some reason it stopped me in my tracks this time and it’s message was as clear as it was challenging. Here are four simple takeaways for us as leaders of any organization, especially churches.

1 – “Trails are managed…” Things aren’t just going to get better because you show up. You and your team will have to pray, process, plan, and get it done with perseverance for there to be lasting change and preferred outcomes along the way. Own it. It’s your trail… for the moment.

2 – “…as part of the natural environment.” How you find the environment of the organization you are leading is only natural. No one said it was optimal, just a natural part of the life in a broken world (i.e. purposed to chaotic, visionary to stagnate, etc). Quit taking things so personal and simply take personal responsibility for what your organization is and will become.

3 –  “Visitors must be prepared…” In other words, we are stewards, not owners. Even if you planted the church or started the business, someone else will replace you. Let this humble you and challenge you to be prepared day in and day out, and do your best as you invest in people with every interaction. The very trail this sign is on was once native american tribal land, then a regional center of colonial life, then a thriving resort, now a national landmark known as Fort Boonesboro.

4 – “…to meet and accept nature on it’s own terms.” It’s time to do this in your organization and to keep doing this daily as it evolves and grows through the natural cycles of all organizations. You will vision, work, grow, plateau, decline and eventually die unless you continually and creatively (stubbornly) face the realities, embrace change, and reinvent all while holding fast to the bedrock principles that guide you.

How is your church or business really doing? Don’t just pass the signs that are right in front of you. Stop. Read them and realize that how you apply their guiding words and where this trail leads you and your organization will be up to you.