Five Things To Do In A Season Of Stuck

Many ministry leaders find themselves feeling stuck. This post is not about getting unstuck. Our friends at the Unstuck Group can help with that. It’s not about overcoming your issues and getting going again.

This is a post about what to do when you don’t know what to do. You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working. And you feel you’re not going anywhere. It’s about what to do while you’re in the season of stuck.

I’ve been there. In ministry. In life. In relationships. Being stuck is not uncommon. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything positive. Here are five helpful things you can do during a season of stuck.

Many pastors and church leaders are Type-A personalities, always needing to do something. We must realize that rest is not doing nothing. It’s an intentional action that’s crucial for refueling.

In his book Leading on Empty, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro warns that when a body is depleted of serotonin “your system has to recharge, but it takes a trickle charge, one that restores you with a sustained low-amperage…The only way to finish strong will be to first replenish your system. If you don’t prepare for a crash.” Continue reading

Relating Well to Four Types of Church Attendees

Over the centuries, the church has been compared to many things. Some have likened it to a hospital or a boot camp. The Apostle Paul wrote that it was like a building, a body, a bride and a family.

The analogy of a ship can also be helpful when describing the church. Scott Ridout, president of Converge Worldwide, says the people on a ship can be compared to the people in your church. This analogy assumes the Pastor is the captain and there are four different kinds of people on board. Let’s look closer at each one.

The Crew
On a ship, the captain can depend on the crew to get the job done. They work alongside the captain and take ownership of every aspect of the ship and its passengers. They agree with all policies, procedures and practices on the ship to create a wonderful experience for everyone aboard.

The crew in your church are the people who are working with you to accomplish the mission of the church. They are your key volunteers and buy into the values, direction and destination of the church. They work hard to bring everyone who attends to maturity in Christ.

The Passengers
The passengers on a ship differ from the crew in one major area. They also love the destination and want to get there, but they don’t pitch in to help. Passengers are just along for the ride. They enjoy the experience of the cruise, but don’t offer assistance or support.

Most churches are full of passengers. They fill the pews every Sunday. They enjoy the worship, listen to the messages and love the fellowship. They partake in the midweek programs, but they don’t get involved in serving. They are the ultimate “church consumer”, taking advantage of the ministry of the church but not offering any help. Passengers buy into where the church is going, but don’t get involved to help anyone get there. Continue reading

What Hedgehogs Teach Us About Ministry

In Jim Collin’s classic book, Good to Great, he introduces readers to the idea of a Hedgehog Concept. Collins says the idea came from a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin called “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” It’s based on the ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox uses multiple ideas and numerous strategies in its battles with the hedgehog. But, says Collins, the hedgehog always wins by using one simple, surefire approach – curling up into a ball. When the hedgehog employs this defensive position, it exposes his sharp spikes to deter attacks from predators. Despite the many and varied tactics the fox uses, the hedgehog always emerges victorious by using his one, focused strategy.

Collins goes on to say that the idea of a Hedgehog Concept has helped successful companies define who they are, focus their energies and become more successful. They do this by answering three critical questions. 1. What are you best at? 2. What are you most passionate about? 3. What drives your economic engine?

Developing a Hedgehog Concept for churches can be extremely valuable. As churches grow, they naturally drift towards complexity. So the need to define and embrace a Hedgehog Concept will help define vision and mission, give a framework around resource allocation and give clarity to critical decision making.

I was part of a church that used the Hedgehog Concept. The senior leaders asked the three questions. After much time, thought and prayer, their answers were incorporated into the culture of the church and helped the church in a major season of growth.

As church leaders who want to bring increased levels of organizational health to your churches, encourage your leaders to wrestle with these three questions.   Continue reading

How To Fail Forward

For years I’ve pondered an interesting question. If I wrote a book called How to Fail, and it became a best-seller, would that be a good thing?

In today’s world, there seems to be a subconscious, relentless drive toward being successful. There are countless conferences, books and podcasts on the topic of attaining success in our work, family and social life. But there aren’t a lot of resources on failure. Who wants to be a failure, right?

No one wants to be a failure. But failure is a reality that most people will face at one point in their lives. The truth is, even though I strive for success in all I do, I’ve met just as much failure, if not more. I’ve struggled with the “f” word (failure) in my work, ministry, and relationships. And since labeling oneself a failure can have damaging emotional effects, I want to give some hope and shed some light on the topic. Below are three thoughts to keep in mind about failure.

Failure is an event, not a person

When failure happens, it’s easy to take the blame. I was raised to own up to my responsibilities and take ownership regardless of the results. But when we do that, we can often label ourselves as a failure. We need to remember that failure is an event, not a person.

Being firmly rooted in your identity in Christ is crucial as you work through failure. Your mind can easily tell you, “You’re a loser. You don’t deserve to succeed. You’re a failure.” But contrast those thoughts with the truth of scripture that says you are chosen by God. You are dearly loved. You’re a redeemed child of God (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 2:1-5). Continue reading

21 Unforgettable Quotes from the 2017 Leadership Summit

Every year, the two days I spend attending the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit with my fellow staff members is the highlight of my year. The Summit is two amazing days filled with refreshment, recharging, learning and inspiration from top-notch leaders from the realms of business, church, activism, media and government.

I hear so many brilliant and inspiring thoughts each year, I try to tweet them all. But, because I can’t keep up, last year I wrote a blog on the 21 most unforgettable quotes from the Summit. This year is no different. Here are 21 unforgettable quotes from the 2017 Leadership Summit.

“Your organization’s culture will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be.” – Bill Hybels

“Leadership development is both the individual and organization’s responsibility.” – Sheryl Sandberg       

“Listen to outsiders. Outsiders aren’t bound by our assumptions.” – Andy Stanley

“Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = human achievement. Talent counts, but effort counts twice.” – Angela Duckworth

 “Leadership begins with a dream. Fear silences dreams.” – Gary Haugen

“Sometimes, where you are used to being is not where you belong.” – Sam Adeyemi Continue reading

Book Review: Sticky Leaders

Reviewing Sticky Leaders, by Pastor Larry Osborne was a joy because the insights in this book are inspiring, important, and easy to understand. As a church consultant, I’ve read many wonderful books on church leadership, and Sticky Leaders does not disappoint. I highly recommend you read it. Here are four areas Osborne emphasizes that are worth considering.

Osborne introduces the concept of “serial innovators” – leaders who try new things, think outside the box, and take careful, calculated risks. He says, “Healthy organizations…can’t just focus on the past. They must also think about creating the future…” This calls for flexibility and innovation.

He says a genuine innovation must work and be widely accepted. The author gives the example of the Segway – the personal, two-wheeled motorized vehicle. Segway’s work. But they never became widely accepted,…except if you’re a mall cop. He states that if a “better” solution isn’t widely adopted, it’s an invention, but not an innovation. Continue reading

One Word That Will Help Focus Your Ministry

As church leaders, we often hear many good ideas to further the mission of the church. And most of them probably are good ideas. The trick is determining which ideas are the best.

In the church, opinions and options seem endless. Everyone has a brilliant plan or groundbreaking idea that should be implemented right away. However, author Chris McChesney said, “There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute them.”

It’s easy to say yes. But how do you decide when to say no?

Author Larry Osborne gives us a clue. In Sticky Leaders he says, “If something doesn’t take us toward our mission, it takes us away from our mission, even if it’s a great idea.” If we say yes to too many good ideas, we quickly lose focus. Too many options overwhelm people, divide attention, and dilute impact.

Saying no can be the most difficult, yet most critically important part of ministry.

So why don’t more churches say no? Why is saying no so difficult? Below are two reasons church leaders find it difficult to say no.

They don’t want to be the bad guy

Christian leaders are supposed to be nice, right? Yet it somehow seems “unchristian” to deny a person’s sincere request or good idea.

Leaders need to decide if they’re called to be nice and fulfill everyone’s wants, or called to be focused and direct people to what they need. An alcoholic wants a drink. But a drink isn’t what he needs. He needs rehab and should be directed there.

It’s easy to misunderstand the difference between needs and wants, and many churches confuse the two. Continue reading

21 Unforgettable Quotes From This Year’s Leadership Summit

195fbff6e89aa01b89abca97c01ee06e“Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” This is just one of many though-provoking truths I overheard at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Every August, for the past 21 years, the Willow Creek Association puts on a 2-day conference from Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, highlighting the best leaders from the world of business, politics, athletics, entertainment, education, philanthropy, and the church. The W.C.A. believes that leadership is vital for church vitality. I whole-heartedly agree. So for the past 11 years, I’ve invested into my own leadership to attend one of the 230 U.S. sites that simulcasts the Summit. And every year I’m glad I did.

Many years ago I heard Dr. John Maxwell say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” These 6 simple words became foundational to my thinking and ministry. Dr. Maxwell was one of this year’s faculty at the Summit and every August, I attend and fill my notebook with notes and quotes that serve to inform and inspire me throughout the year. Here are 21 of the most unforgettable quotes I heard at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Continue reading

4 Things That Make a Great Executive Pastor

The most significant relationship in the church is between the Senior Pastor and the Executive Pastor. It’s almost a given that these two influential leaders need to be unified regarding vision, complement each other’s strengths, and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. While their roles are very different, each plays a unique and significant part of your church’s ministry. Therefore, having the right Executive Pastor on your staff is critical. So if you are looking to hire one, or you currently are one wanting to increase your effectiveness, here are four things that make an exceptional Executive Pastor.

Reflect the heart of the leader
img3The chief aim of a great Executive Pastor is to reflect the heart of the leader. Getting to know the Senior Pastor’s passions, goals and priorities is vital. The Executive Pastor should be the Senior Pastor’s chief representative, main confidant, and most reliable associate. This relationship must be characterized by trust and transparency. And that takes intentionality. It won’t happen by simply sitting in meetings together or working on the same project. Instead, it will require relational interdependence that comes from common experience and shared passion for the mission of the church.

Recognize your role
An exceptional Executive Pastor recognizes his main role is to make the Senior Pastor successful. Once the Executive Pastor knows and reflects the heart of the leader, he can begin to re-cast the leader’s vision, – not his own. When it comes to defending the leader, a wise Executive Pastor knows he must support publicly, yet confront privately. Again, the relationship must be healthy enough for the Executive Pastor to challenge, question, and give direction to the Senior Pastor. But all these conversations must be done in person, and in a private environment.
Continue reading

Delegating Versus Releasing Authority: What’s the Difference?

Several years ago, I learned an important lesson about the difference between delegating tasks and releasing authority. I was in a ministry situation where I was selected to be on a small team to plan a special training event for our staff. We were each given different aspects of this task and each of us worked very hard to deliver great results. But as we progressed, it became evident that the leader of our team was running just about every detail past our senior leadership team for approval.

The event came and went, and by all accounts, it was fairly successful. But I learned an unexpected, valuable lesson from the experience. I thought our team had been given authority for the event. But in reality, we had been merely delegated tasks.

After reflecting upon that experience, I came to a greater awareness of the difference between the two. Here are four insights on why releasing authority is better than delegating tasks.

Multiplies effectiveness
When a church begins to grow, the senior leader must begin to delegate tasks. The sheer number of duties in a growing church quickly outnumber the leader’s capacity to perform them all.

px220088But as a church continues to grow, senior leadership needs to do more than assign duties. They need to begin to release authority.

Dale Peterson, the Executive Director of Ministry Multiplication at Eagle Brook Church in the Twin Cities, said that their senior leadership team came to a watershed moment when they learned to release responsibility, not just delegate tasks. It’s when their church went from being a growing church to a multiplying church.

Broadens responsibility
When leadership is shared, it divides the load and multiplies the effect. But if all authority lies with one person or committee, it can slow the decision making progress to a crawl. Bottlenecks begin to emerge. Progress is hindered. And tensions rise.

See Acts 6 and the widow crisis in the Early Church as an example. Their solution? Spread out the responsibilities! The leaders appointed deacons and said, “We will turn this responsibility over to them.” People got fed, widows were cared for and the Church took off.

Today, if a variety of people are actually responsible for different areas of ministry, growth is developed, needs are met, and frustration is minimized. Continue reading