Tag: Leadership (page 1 of 13)

To be an effective leader, stop wasting your time

This is a flea market. Notice all of the junk. Randomly priced, randomly placed, randomly assorted junk. The highest priced item here: $7.50. (It’s also a picture of my son’t handiwork. “Hey dad…*snicker*…see what I did to that little wooden…*snicker*…mannequin…*snicker*?”)

Below is a picture from the next table over. Seriously, within just a few feet I saw a “Royal Albert China Dinner and Tea Set” for $850. I’m not saying it’s not worth that price tag…I honestly have no idea what, if anything, it’s worth.

 

Someone kept these for a long time. They spent a lot of money on them. Probably moved with them a time or two. Took extra time and care to store them. And probably rarely (if ever) used them. Now they’re sitting at a flea market, not selling. Because you can’t sell $850 dishes beside a $.28 button.

It’s sad, really. I feel bad for the person that bought them, the one that stored them, the one that didn’t use them, the one that transported them across town to the flea market, and the one that’s (not) selling them now.

Individual leadership

I bet there’s something you’re doing right now that, when you look back on your life in 20 years, is really a waste of time. You’re moving boxes of expensive dishes (your most valuable resource is your time) that you’re going to try to sell later, that nobody wants to buy.

  • There’s a book you’re reading that isn’t helping you. Put it down.
  • There’s a habit you’ve got that leaves you more irritable and less patient with people. Stop it.
  • There’s a relationship you have that is moving you further from who God made you to be. Change it.
  • There’s a side hustle you’re juggling that sucks the life out of you. Time to cut the cord.
  • Your “relaxing” time doesn’t leave you recharged. You can do better.

Life’s too short to protect expensive dishes you don’t want.

Organizational leadership

Church leaders, make sure the “programs” and initiatives you’re starting don’t just appease people’s itching ears, but actually lead them somewhere. Just because people ask for it doesn’t mean you have to do it. And on the flip side, be careful putting your time and energy towards what you think is nice without seeing if people want it.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. – Paul, 2 Timothy 4:3

Know where you’re taking people, understand WHO you’re trying to produce, and relentlessly pursue that. Stop having people do things that simply keep them, and you, busy with activity but don’t actually help them become the Jesus follower you’re trying to lead them to become.

Good pastors don’t just exegete the Scriptures, they exegete their people. In other words, good pastors don’t just spend time trying to know, understand, love, and unpack the truths found in the Bible. They work equally hard to know, understand, love, and unpack the people God’s called them to lead, and the unique vision God’s called their local congregation to. One without the other short-changes both. To love the Scriptures but not people makes you into a Bible-thumper. It also means you’ve not obeyed the most important command in Scripture: love others as yourself.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Jesus, Mark 12:30-31

It’s hard to know when you’re doing this, though, and whether the programs and processes you have in place are working. Maybe try asking a couple of questions of those you’re leading:

  • Because of ____ (program, event, etc.), are you closer to Jesus?
  • Are you growing more patient or more irritable with people, as a result of ___?
  • Are you finding yourself more or less courageous with your faith?
  • Do you find yourself more available emotionally, spiritually, and physically for your family, and those closest to you, because of ___?

People will be honest, especially when it comes to how they spend their time and resources. It may just be that that recreation ministry makes you happy, but isn’t helping your church become more faithful followers of Jesus.

Can we all agree to not become, or continue practices that produce, expensive dishes that nobody wants to buy?

 

 

5 truths to remember when you move

My family and I have transitioned more times than we would have liked. Each move has been difficult for one reason or another. And each has brought an abundance of joy for one reason or another. We’ve moved

  • from home
  • from a church we loved
  • from a state we loved
  • from a beach we loved
  • to a different city
  • to a different state
  • from the South to the West
  • with kids
  • without kids
  • with help from a moving company
  • with just our own backs

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In our 13 years of marriage, my wife and I have moved 8 times. The WHY (and how to know we were ready to move) is another post for another day. But we’ve learned a few things about making a transition. It doesn’t mean we’re experts by any means. But maybe what we’ve learned can help you if you have a move coming up.

First of all, I’m going to presume God’s in it. Moving is difficult enough. Don’t go anywhere unless you’ve wrestled that one to the ground.

So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces, and all the people, did not obey the voice of the LORD to stay in the land of Judah. – Jeremiah 43:4

 

“The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.'” – Deuteronomy 1:6

But if you’ve already made a move (or at least made up your mind that it’s time), here are 5 things you must remember if you want to land well. And I know you do. You don’t want to burn out yourself or others. You don’t want to be in your role for a couple of months and hate it.

You know there’s more that goes in to a move besides your job, right? That is typically what will move you, but not what will sustain you. That’s the part of the iceberg you see, not the 90% that’s below the water.

5 truths about moving

Remember: unpacking every box right away isn’t the most important thing.

Yes, you want to feel settled. Yes, you want your home to be less cluttered. Yes, you want to find that pan  you just KNOW you packed in the box with the rest of the pans but it’s not there. But believe me when I say that unpacking everything right away isn’t of utmost importance. You’ll have plenty of time to settle in. Plenty of time to hang those pictures. Just breathe. Unpack a couple of boxes every day. You’ll get there. But putting pressure on yourself to do it all in the first week is a recipe for a quick burnout…and a lot of counseling sessions down the road.

Remember: do the thing you love, that brings you joy and life.

For my wife and me, we love CrossFit. Are there “more important things” than finding the gym where we can work out? Sure. Can we just work out at home and do our own thing for a while? Sure. Do we HAVE to quickly find the CrossFit box where we want to work out? I’d actually say, “Yes.” For us, we CrossFit every day. It’s our physical outlet, and the way we push ourselves physically and mentally every day. It’s our community. They’re our people. It’s our daily release. I’m not sure what yours is. Maybe it’s coffee. Maybe it’s basketball. Maybe it’s a book club. Maybe it’s bunco. Find that *thing* that brings you life, and that gives you a semblance of routine, and do that QUICKLY.

Remember: integrate yourself…don’t wait for others to do it.

Yes, you’re the new girl. And everyone wants to get to know you. But don’t wait for them to do it. Introduce yourself first. Walk the halls. Invite yourself to coffee. Be genuinely curious about people, what they love, and how long they’ve been doing what you’re doing. Don’t put the burden of responsibility on everyone else. Take some initiative.

Remember: you’ve got to keep relationships alive.

You’re the one that left, after all. Text, call, FaceTime, send notes, send gifts. Don’t expect that everyone is pining for you. If you want to maintain friendship, that’s on you. And you need it! There are a handful of relationships that will span the moves and the years. Hang on to those and fight for them.

Remember: give yourself grace.

Did you know that it takes somewhere between 2-3 years to feel settled? If you feel a bit uneasy and out of sorts in the first few months, know you’re normal. In some of our moves, we felt like we’ve moved to a different country. Yes, we spoke the same language…but besides that, EVERYTHING felt weird. Every 6 months felt like a new window was opened, that let a little more light in. As relationships formed and routines were carved out, a new state will begin to feel like home. But it takes time! So give yourself grace to feel sad. To feel lonely. And to feel like a fish out of water.

Have you ever made a transition? Anything you’d add?

 

5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my kids

As a family, we spend a lot of time together. It’s a value for us, honestly. Some people would say quality time is most important, but we say that quality time is only found when you spend quantity time together.
And because we spend such a vast amount of time together, we experience a lot of everything: lots of laughs, tears, and joy. Lots of light moments and plenty of teachable ones. Moments of quiet and long stretches of seemingly meaningless noise from the back seat. And while “learning” mostly flows one direction (my wife and I are always looking for opportunities to teach our children truth), the waters flow the other direction from time to time, too. Here are a few things I’ve learned recently from my kids.

5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my children

1. Don’t root your identity in what people think

My daughter is a wild child. She vacillates between high highs and low lows, and everything in between…all in the span of 5 minutes. But one thing is certain: she isn’t affected by what you think of her. If you think she’s funny, great. If you don’t, great. If you agree with what she’s doing, great. If not, great. And while some of that behavior we as parents are working on, there’s something beautiful about not being swayed by the shifting thoughts of others.
think she cares what you think? Nope.

think she cares what you think? Nope.

The more you care about others’ opinion of you, the more you find yourself chained by them. What do you see on this spaghetti-smeared face? Pure joy.
Confession: sometimes I care too much what other will think.
Truth: The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. – Proverbs 29:25

2. Have fun

My son just loves to have fun. Where ever he is, whatever he’s doing, he’s looking to enjoy life, and pull others in to his vortex. Seriously, whether he’s at school, church, or in the front yard, he’s constantly gathering people together to play, laugh, and enjoy life.
Check out the one kid on the left that's dabbing. The. One. Kid.

Check out the one kid on the left that’s dabbing. The. One. Kid.

 

Confession: Sometimes I get lost in tasks.
Truth: “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” – Solomon, Ecclesiastes 8:15

3. Take risks

My kids take risks. All of the time. Some   Many of them are dumb. But that never slows them down from taking another risk that might end in them falling flat on their faces. Maybe we could learn something from them. Maybe we play it too safe, under the guise of “I might look foolish” or “I might not succeed.”
Confession: Sometimes I lean towards comfort.
Truth: Where there is no risk, there is no faith.

4. Love quickly

Both of my children are quick to love and trust others. I’ve found that the older I get, the more I’m tempted to be slow to trust. They have a short memory, while mine is a little longer. As I’ve seen my trust of others broken, it makes me a little hesitant. I’m learning from my kids that relational risks are worth the potential downside.
Confession: Sometimes I struggle to trust after it’s been broken.
Truth: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus, John 13:35

5. Tell people what to do all of the time

Oh, wait…that’s just my daughter. And I’m not applying that one. 🙂
 

6 Leadership truths we can learn from Legos

4016.

That’s the number of pieces in the Lego set my son and I are building. It’s called the Death Star, and it’s even more epic than I anticipated. He saved his money for a long time to get it, and it hasn’t disappointed. Every single day, Rex asks if we can build a little more of it. So naturally, I’ve used it as the hook to “finish your homework then we can build a little.”

All 4016 pieces...with one happy boy

All 4016 pieces…with one happy boy

I love the time spent with my son, using our minds and our hands together. It’s good for his development, and for mine. It’s good for our relationship. And I’ve found that we can have meaningful discussions about the most important things in life while we’re working together…even more so than if we were to sit down and have a face-to-face talk. Boys seem to respond better talking side-by-side.

But enough about that.

Did you know that you can learn a little about leadership development* from Legos? (actually, you can learn a bit about leadership from almost every aspect of life if you look for it)

6 Leadership Development Truths Legos teach

1. They don’t build themselves. No Lego set has ever spontaneously built itself.

No person has ever built themselves either. There are no truly self-made men/women. We are all a product of the communities where we live: our city, our church, the 5 people closest to us, our small group, our hobbies, our experiences, etc.
If you want to grow in your leadership, surround yourself with people who lead like you want to lead.

2. It’s as much about the process as it is the destination. We’re having as much fun building the set as we will ever have with the set once it’s “done.”

Development happens in the doing, not simply in the “learning.” It’s as you lead that you learn to lead. Books, seminars, and Ted talks can only take you so far. I’ve heard it said that “community” is both a goal and the means of achieving the goal, of the Church. The same is true of leadership development.
Leadership development is both the goal and the means of achieving it.

3. The destination is vital. Without instructions, the Lego set is a bunch of mismatched pieces.

Knowing what you’re developing towards is important, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels. But when you have a destination in mind, it gives you the freedom to know what to say yes to…and what to turn down. It points you in the direction you need to go. We are all lumps of clay in the hand of the potter, who makes of us something beautiful and useful, giving our daily grind purpose and meaning.
Without a destination, you’ll hit it every time.

4. Improvisation is crucial. We’ve lost so many of those pieces. And a blue 2×2 just adds character where a light gray 2×2 should be.

Leadership development is not simply a series of formulas you follow. You can’t check all of the boxes and magically be developed. The development happens as you improvise throughout life. That’s called wisdom.
Leadership is a purpose-driven art.

5. There’s a special tool for when you make mistakes. I love that Lego assumes you’ll make mistakes.

IMG_6019Our development will be fraught with mistakes. And there’s a tool we need day after day after day: grace. Grace for others. And grace for ourselves. Grace that we’re not perfect, nor will we ever be. (there’s also a proactive tool to help us make fewer mistakes: constantly learning)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

6. It’s never done. There’s always another piece you can add to make it more awesome. And over time it breaks down, revealing more holes.

Leadership development isn’t a “thing” you put on your to-do list. It’s a process that changes throughout life, in different seasons, ups and down, highs and lows. Different seasons expose different weaknesses that invite more development.

Have the end in mind, but remember that the best leaders are always in development.

*another word for “leadership development” is discipleship. Because we’re called as followers of Jesus to be disciples, constantly learning and growing in the way we know, love, follow, and lead others to do the same.

 

Running on empty

When I started driving at age 16, I bought a little Toyota Tercel. It was old at the time. It was a little beat up, and if you wanted to make it up a big hill you had to turn the A/C off. But I didn’t care. I was proud of that thing.

I remember one day pulling in to a gas station to get a drink. I had half of a tank of gas left, but figured that since I was there, I might as well fill up. I noticed it took longer than normal to fill up. Thinking it was just a slow pump, I went on.  A couple of weeks later, I was still at 3/4 of a tank but decided to fill up again. It took a long time again.

empty

empty

As I pulled out, the gauge jumped from full to empty to full. I pulled over to the side of the road.

I didn’t know what was going on, and I was just praying I would make it home. As I looked down at the gas gauge again, it was full. Completely.

And I was confused. Completely.

The next day, I was on empty again. But before I could pull in to the station, the needle had gone back to full.

What was happening was the mechanism that controlled the needle telling me how much gas I had in the tank was broken. So on a 10 minute drive across town, I would go from full to empty a dozen times. It was maddening. And anxiety-producing.

When I thought I was full of gas, I’d been running on empty.

Are you running on fumes?

It’s entirely possible that you’re running on fumes but you don’t know it. It’s possible you could be out of fuel but think you’ve got a full tank. Cruising around town, you’re about to have to call a tow truck.

If you’re a leader, you’re in an even greater danger of not just taking yourself out of service, but taking others with you. 

God has given us some gauges to help us know whether our spiritual tanks are full or not.

Sometimes they are broken (though more often than not, the problem is that we choose to ignore the warning signs). I’ve found that some of the best gauges are actually questions you can ask yourself.

5 ways to know you’re running on empty

1. How’s your family?
Start with this question. Because your family (or those closest to you) know you often better than you know yourself. And they’re a great indicator for you. If they’re worn out, but you don’t feel that way, your gauge might be broken. You may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually running them ragged. Check that gauge.

Our hearts deceive ourselves, and we need others to help us see what we’re blind to. Those that know us best can help. Have you ever asked them?

2. Are you growing more anxious?
The Bible says to be anxious about nothing, (Philippians 4:6-7) which is easier said than done. We can easily find ourselves anxious about everything. Finances, job security, spiritual growth, physical health, parenting issues, retirement, and tomorrow’s to-do list keep you up all night.

If you’re growing anxious, you’re running on empty.

3. Are you growing less patient?
Patience is a sign of peace. And peace is a sign of rest. And rest is a product of  intentionally sabbathing.

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

If you find yourself with a short fuse, with patience constantly out of reach, you’re closer to *empty* than you think.

4. Are you resting well?

And I don’t just mean “are you sleeping enough,” though that may be part of it.

Are you working so hard you need the rest? And resting so well you need the work?

5. Are you feeling less fulfilled?
Fulfillment comes from doing what God created you to do. That’s based on your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality and experiences (HN: Class 301 at Saddleback). So your interpreting a lack of fulfillment isn’t your job’s fault. Or your marriage’s. Or your local church’s. Or your home’s. It’s a by-product of a heart that’s searching for fulfillment in the wrong places. Here’s where life’s found:

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. – The Apostle John, 1 John 5:11-12

A lack of fulfillment should signal to you that your gauge should be on empty. Time to fill  up.

Have you been running on empty and didn’t even know it?

 

 

6 Leadership Principles I learned by being a tourist

Two major shifts happen when you make the transition from “tourist” to “resident.”

  • A place starts to feel like home. Which is good. You grow comfortable. You feel safe.
  • A place starts to feel like home. Which is bad. You grow comfortable. You feel safe.

Safety is good, as long as you don’t rot. Home is good as long as you don’t spend all of your time lazing on your couch.

Recently, we traveled about 350 miles from our home in California, to the state of Arizona. The place we went was a desert, with temperatures hitting 116 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there. But let me tell you, it was one of the most beautiful parts of the country we had ever visited. The mountains, the cacti, the wildlife, and the colors were simply stunning.

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While we were there, we acted like tourists. Because we were. We took tons of pictures, drove all over the place, and stared way too long at rocks. Everything was different, new, and alive.

And in the process of being tourists, I learned a couple of things we naturally did as a newbie to the area that translate to leadership.

Tourists are curious.
Leadership: Be genuinely curious. Curiosity is the pursuit of something previously unknown to you. Be curious when it comes to potential solutions, new systems, and ideas. Approach problems as if it’s your first time there. Not your first time on Earth…use your intelligence. But be curious.

Tourists ask a lot of questions
Leadership: Ask questions constantly. This is how you’ll learn people’s motives, direction, and desires. Questions uncover truths, and get to the bottom of difficult situations much more effectively than when you come in and “have all of the answers.” Questions don’t put people on the defensive, but give them a chance to safely share.

Tourists search out new things
Leadership: Never be content with, ‘But we’ve always done it this way…’ Every new, shiny object isn’t worth pursuing, but be on the lookout for ideas, systems, and directions outside of your box.

Tourists are amazed with the ‘ordinary.’
As a tourist, you notice more about a place than a resident notices. Your eyes aren’t glossed over by the mundane everyday passings of life.
Leadership: Joy fuels ministry. Never lose the “why” behind the “what.” For us as Saddleback, we work to continually gather stories of life change, and share those with one another. It reminds us why we do what we do.

Tourists continually learn.
I picked up pamphlets. I Googled stuff. I sat and listened to tour Guides.
Leadership: Leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop leading. Read books, listen to podcasts, go to conferences, and stretch your mind to think, dream, and strategize.

Tourists explore.
Leadership: Go do something new. If you’ve got a problem you’re facing in leadership, going about solving it the same way you tried last time is foolishness. You’re not going to get different results. (side note: if you don’t have any problems in leadership, just quit. Because your job isn’t necessary anymore. Leadership is needed when there’s a problem.)

The safety and security that comes when your role starts to feel like “home” is something we strive for. But the danger is that the feeling of comfort would lead us to laziness, a lack of curiosity, and half-hearted work.

So take your feet off the couch and go exploring.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Paul, Colossians 3:23-24

In your leadership, are you a tourist or a resident?

 

8 Leadership Principles from my first 90 days at Saddleback

My family and I just made a massive move across the United States, from Nashville to California. From the syrupy sweet Southern US culture to the fast-paced, always-sunny Southern California.

To say that Nashville is different that Orange County would be the understatement of the century.

But we’re adjusting. Slowly, but surely, we’re building healthy relationships, finding our rhythm, and figuring out where to get the oil changed.

Coming on staff at Saddleback has already been an amazing adventure. I’ve learned more here than I’ve learned in the same amount of time in any other place. The learning curve is steep, and the amount of content, strategy, and intentionality runs deep in this place. I love it. It’s such a great fit for me in how God’s wired me for ministry.

Even though I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water most days.

Hosted the weekend services. Not sure about my gesture there, though.

Hosted the weekend services. Not sure about my gesture there, though.

I’ve learned a few things about leadership since I’ve been here. I can tell this is a place where I’ll continue to learn in every season of life and ministry.

8 Leadership Principles I’ve learned from Saddleback

1. Take your next step in the current one.

This is a little nugget I’ve picked up on as I’ve spent time around leadership. In other words, don’t just do an event. Help people to take the next step in their faith journey. Don’t just host a marriage conference. Recruit small group hosts and ministry leaders. Don’t just give out resources…use them to draw people into ministry. Don’t just host a family missions event…use it to help people step in to a small group.

Your next step is just as important as the current one. (Tweet that)

2. Listening is more important than talking.

Learning the culture, values, and language of an organization is often the difference between successfully transitioning into an organization and staying back on the starting line. Taking the time and space to on-board well is one of the keys to building a solid foundation. For me, I’ve done this by listening, studying, and reading. By buying cups of coffee for staffers, church members, and small group hosts. By listening WAY more than I talk.

3. Relationships are key to organizational influence.

They help you grab the real values of an organization. Relationships help you understand how things REALLY get done. They help you feel at home, like you’re a part of a family. They help you learn what people do intuitively that needs to be made known. Relationships help you move further, faster.

Without relationships, you’ll shrivel on the vine. (Tweet that)

4. Know your church’s strategy forwards and backwards.

Understanding how you’re going to accomplish your core values is key. Your strategy is unique to your local congregation, your organization, your business, or your family. Understand your strategy and relentlessly work it.

5. Be a student of your city’s culture.

The cultural demographic in Southern California is just the slightest bit different than the one in Nashville, TN. Understanding the people you’re trying to reach is vital to progress and growth. Know what they value, where they go, and how they spend their free time.

Without a knowledge of your city’s culture, you’ll never move forward. (Tweet that)

6. Tell your story over and over.

I have heard Saddleback’s story dozens of times since I’ve been here. And every time I hear it, I feel more and more like this is my home church. That Saddleback’s story is my story.

Stories, not programs, inspire people. (Tweet that)

7. Never sacrifice your family for your ministry

If you’re married and/or have children, your primary calling is to your family. Giving your family your second best is never okay. “Killing it” in ministry but not investing time and energy into your family is not okay.

Pastor: if you lose your family, we all lose. (Tweet that)

8. Cynicism is dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what part of the country you serve. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the church world, the business world, or volunteering in your community. Cynicism can eat an organization from the inside out. Cynicism callouses your heart towards growth and change, and keeps you from believing God’s best about your organization and the people you’re called to lead.

Run, don’t walk, from cynicism. It’ll steal your heart. (Tweet that)

 

The 8 keys to being a better small group leader

You want to be a better leader, in life and in your small group. I know you do.

Nobody that reads, watches instructional videos, and seeks to grow in their faith says, “I want to put this work in…so that my leadership capacity decreases.” Nobody.

This is one of the best talks on small group leadership that I have ever heard. My friend John Morgan (blog, Twitter, Facebook) gave the talk at a leadership rally I held for small group leaders at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Whether you’re on a church staff, a small group leader, or not, this video will help you become a better leader.

(the video’s long, but worth carving 35 minutes out for)

In case you missed them, here are the 8 keys:

1. Vision – what is my small group going to look like?
Without vision, you’re not going to accomplish anything. (Tweet that)
2. Attitude – if your attitude is bad, your life will be bad.
Your attitude in how you respond to problems is the determining factor in your life. And your attitude shifts others’ attitudes, whether positively or negatively.

A negative attitude is one of the primary causes of failure. (Tweet that)

If you’re not fired up about your group, nobody else will be.

3. Confidence – improvement comes from self-improvement.
If you want your group to grow, you need to grow. Be “selfish” with your own personal spiritual growth. If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. (Tweet that)

4. Environment – you can motivate others by having faith in them.
Believe that the Holy Spirit changes lives, and create environments where that can happen best. (Tweet that)

5. Seek – learn from those with the knowledge and how-to that you lack. 
Who has time to read? You do! “There’s no such thing as a time management problem. There are only priority management problems.” (Tweet that)

6. Bravery – faith is tested in the moments of difficulty.
Fear regret more than you fear failure. If we remembered people for their failures, Christopher Columbus would be the guy that didn’t find India.

You owe it to your small group to be brave. (Tweet that)

7. Initiative – develop habits of taking action before they’re ready.

Don’t wait until your group is “ready” for their next step. Push now. Don’t wait until the church does a small groups push to get people into group life. Take the initiative now. Invite people to join your group.

It’s a shame that sales people do a better job than the Church. (Tweet that)

8. Habits: can you create your vision with your current habits?

Your habits create your reality. Everyone of you is happy with where your life is, and where your group is. If you weren’t you’d be changing your habits and standards. Your small group is as good as you want it to be. (Tweet that)

 

Post Traumatic Church Disorder

I’ve talked with a number of men and women in ministry, and I’ve noticed an alarming problem. It’s often felt but rarely talked about. Just below the surface, it affects daily interactions, vision casting, and strategic planning. It affects how we relate to God and how we relate to others.

I call it post-traumatic-church-disorder.

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

It may not be a professional diagnoses, but it’s a real issue.

You’ve heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, right?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. – mayoclinic.org

PTSD happens after a terrifying event. PTCD, however, happens after a traumatic, stressful, chaotic, terrifying, painful experience or season in a local church. It can happen after events that our society would deem abusive (physical, sexual, verbal) and/or traumatic. PTCD cuts deeply. If there’s a place where your spiritual, emotional, and physical life should be safe, it is in a local church.The safety net you should feel by being there erodes. Finding abuse and traumatic events where a wall of safety and health should exist carves deep wounds on your soul. You may begin to deal with this issue after having been in an local church that is filled with one, or more, of the following features characterizing its leadership (whether paid staff, volunteer leadership, or elders):

  • unhealthy staff culture
  • abusive (spiritual, emotional, verbal, physical or otherwise) leadership
  • unwise leadership decisions
  • controlling
  • constant complaining
  • fighting (open name-calling, character assassination, slander)
  • gossip (behind-closed-door name calling, character assassination, slander)
  • insulated leadership, refusing to be held accountable
  • self-serving shepherds
  • manipulative leadership
  • bullying

Church staff/leadership teams can have these attitudes and behaviors creep in over time. And you’d be foolish to think that one person that’s dominated by one of these traits doesn’t seep its way into other staff members and into the church at large.

One bad apple spoils the bunch, and one bad staffer can spoil the team. (Tweet that)

These prideful character traits can destroy staff and church morale quicker than just about anything else.

How to know you have it

It doesn’t take long for PTCD to set in. Just a season or two of a self-serving, manipulative, controlling leadership in your life can move your heart to a dark place. Trust is built over time, but is torn down in a moment. (Tweet that) Fortunately or not, our view of the local church greatly impacts our view of God.

How do you know if you’re suffering from PTCD? Here are some markers.

  • a deep distrust of church leadership, despite anything specific that you see
  • a callousness towards church staff
  • growing cynicism towards the Church
  • growing desire to gossip about leadership
  • When your pastor calls you, your first thought is “What have I done?” or “What’s he going to be mad about this time?”
  • a knee-jerk anger when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • a knee-jerk fear when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • constant questioning of the motives of your church staff
  • refusal to engage in serving and attending worship
  • continual doubting of your pastor’s heart
  • refusal to give financially to your local church because of your distrust
  • a growing anxiousness in dealing with church leaders

How to guard against it

Be careful that PTCD doesn’t wreck your heart. It can. And it will. Satan would love nothing more than to keep you from Church by convincing you Church is worth keeping from. (Tweet that) By couching “Church” in the category of pain, frustration, and uselessness, you’ll sideline yourself when the Church needs you and your voice.

Here’s how you can guard your heart from growing distant and calloused:

Pray.
Start here. End here. And fill every moment with asking God to guard you from bitterness, inaction, and callousness. It realigns your heart with what pleases, and what breaks, the heart of God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Remind yourself of who the Church is.
The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s the one for whom Christ suffered and died. And remember this…Jesus had to suffer and die because the Church isn’t perfect. We’re a bunch of messed up sinners who continue to do battle against our flesh. Church leaders are sinners being redeemed, too. The Church isn’t perfect, but its Redeemer is. And He loves his bride. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Help make better decisions
Instead of complaining, speak in to the life and leadership of your local church. If you see things differently, that just might be a gift you could give. When you see a different path, point it out. When you see disunity, expose it. When you see poor, abusive leadership, blow the whistle. Terrible leadership begets terrible leadership unless you speak up.

Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools,
or they will become wise in their own estimation. – Proverbs 26:5

Serve selflessly
Keep serving. Give of yourself until it hurts. Give of yourself until it costs you something. This will help curb your tendency of thinking that your local church only exists for you. Yes, we’re broken. Yes, we’re imperfect. But the Church is better when you serve. And as you serve, you become a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem.

Don’t go at it alone
Don’t be so foolish that you think you can work through PTCD on your own. (Tweet that) Masking over problems doesn’t make them go away. Find someone you can be open, honest, and transparent with. You need an outside perspective in order to biblically, helpfully, and healthily walk through this issue.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Don’t give up on the local church. She is the bride of Christ, as broken and twisted as she sometimes can be. She’s worth fighting for.

She’s redemption in process. (Tweet that)

 

Leaders move without the ball

In basketball, there’s a concept that’s vital. And it’s something that’s rarely seen by the person unless they’re watching intently. The casual basketball viewer won’t see it, because the casual viewer watches the ball. The ball is where the action happens. Scoring, passing, steals, and blocks all happen AT the ball.

But what happens away from the ball is often just as important.

image credit: UKSports.com

image credit: UKSports.com

 

It’s a concept called “moving without the ball.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity allow me to explain in further details.

Moving without the ball means you move even when you don’t have the ball, with the express purpose of creating the next play, receiving the next pass, gaining the next rebound, or blocking the next shot. IF you don’t move without the ball, you’ll be caught in the wrong position at the wrong time. Or, said more accurately, you won’t be in the right position at the right time if you don’t move when you don’t control the ball.

If you don’t move without the ball

  • You’ll never get open
  • You’ll never score
  • You’ll be out of position when the time is right
  • You won’t be ready to steal
  • You’ll get left behind
  • You’ll constantly be wondering where the action is happening
  • You’ll not be in the action of the game

In a 48 minute game of basketball, the game is dominated by moving without the ball. To a casual observer, the person moving without the ball looks goofy, like they don’t know what they’re doing. Like the game is happening in spite of them. But the casual observer doesn’t know just how important it is to position yourself to be ready.

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

The same is true in ministry.

Moving without the ministry ball

There are times when you, in your role, have “the ball.” These are the busy seasons of ministry, when the spotlight is on. For me, this happens during small group signups and launches. It happens during our church-wide alignments. During these seasons, it’s all-hands-on-deck for our team.

But for the most part, I don’t have the ball. It’s apparent “down time.” And if I don’t move, plan, strategize, recruit, train, and mobilize, when the ball’s passed to me I’ll be caught flat-footed. I’ll be left behind. The infrastructure won’t be ready, the plan won’t be in place, and my heart won’t be in the place it needs to be.

That’s why the casual church observer thinks pastors just work one day/week. Because our “time with the ball” seems like a waste of time. All the casual church observer sees is the time when we’re in the spotlight, highlighting our ministry, getting people into serving and growing, preaching, teaching, and executing. They don’t always realize that executing at the right time in the right way is loaded with lots of “moving without the ball” times.

If I don’t work to prepare myself spiritually, either, I’ll be dead in the water. I’ve got to spend time allowing God to refresh, recharge, and equip me for the work ahead.

That’s why I read books, meet with other pastors, and go to conferences like Re:Group (which is a must-attend event, by the way. To get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the healthiest small groups ministry will help you strategize, and become better in your local context).

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

Strategize, shift, train, recruit, and prepare. Because the ball’s coming your way.

 
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