Tag: Leadership (page 1 of 13)

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.



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.


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:

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.


Getting your small group to like you

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Getting your small group to like you isn’t something you may have explicitly set out to do. If you did, you’re pretty self-centered. And there’s a great chance that nobody really likes you.

There. I said it.

While you may not have set that out as a written goal though, it’s on the back of your mind whether you’re a leader or a group member. Don’t lie. You want to be liked. And that’s not a terrible thing. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d probably be a jerk. Caring what others think (while not being dominated by that) shapes our responses, and helps us become more loving and generous. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d dress like a slob and never shower. So please, please keep caring.

If people genuinely don’t like you, and you’re a representation of Christ for them, then there’s a great chance you’re acting as a barrier for them to enjoying Jesus. It would be wise for us to not be a barrier.

How to you get your small group to like you? Well you can start by taking a shower before group. Then, let’s get to the more important things.

How to get your group to like you

Listen intently.

Listen way more than you talk. When you think you’ve listened too much, you’ve just started the process.

Share your story.

You’ve got a story of loss. Victory. Defeat. One that makes much of God, and His power to change your heart and shape your journey. Share that. It’s a gift.

Be authentic.

Nobody likes a fake leader. We all want to know that the person we’re following is the person we think we’re following. Be real and open and honest with your struggles and victories.

Be consistent.

Show up and engage. Week after week after week. On the weeks that you feel like going, show up. On the weeks that you don’t feel like going, show up. On the weeks when you’re too busy, show up. Consistency builds trust.

Go over and above.

Have coffee with a group member outside of your group’s meeting time. Invite a couple over to your house for dinner. Text them when you know they’re going to have a difficult day. Reach beyond the “normal” and “expected.”

Love unexpectedly.

Call on their birthday. Offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date night. Buy them a book that’s made a difference in your life.

Give grace when it’s not deserved.

I know, I know…grace “deserved” isn’t really grace. But there are times when you give grace and it’s expected. But when it’s not deserved in the least. When it hasn’t been earned. When everybody in the room expects you to go 100% truth in the moment…go 100% grace.

Learn their kids’ names.

Do this one today.

Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Go ahead and plug them into your calendar now, and set yourself a reminder. Trust me…they’ll notice this.

Share a well-timed truth.

Don’t just sit in your big comfy chair and drop theological bombs on your group. Listen well, and share a well-timed, well-pointed, well-applied truth. One that’s informed in the moment, and that walks the nuances of a deep relationship.

Give your resources.

You can’t give everything to everybody. But you can give significant, needed resources, to your group members. In a way that’s much faster, more efficient, than applying for aid from government, or even parachurch, organizations.

Be yourself.

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. If you’re patient, be patient. If you’re the life of a party, be the life of the party. If you’re an intellectual, be an intellectual. Be the you God created you to be.

Anything else that you do that engages your group to enjoy being around you?


The one thing you should never say to a gym returnee

This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.



The slow, regressive progress of change


image credit: grist.org

Growing up, I played sports a lot, but golf was the game that stuck. On the other side of being able to regularly play competitive sports because of “life,” golf continues to be a sport I’m able to play, and not embarrass myself.

While playing competitively, I took lessons from a handful of coaches over the years, each of whom had their strengths, and taught me a different aspect of the game.

But one thing was constant with each coach and each lesson I took.

After changing my swing, even just a little bit, I always got worse.


There was never once where my coach would shift my grip, or adjust my posture, or shorten my backswing, where I would go out the next day and fire the round of my life.

Not. Even. Once.

I’d hit one or two good shots. And 75 bad ones.

Then the next round I’d hit 3 or 4 good shots.

Followed by another coaching lesson change.

Followed by a mere 1 or 2 good shots.

Over time, those 75 bad shots became less bad. And the 1 or 2 good shots became 8 or 10.

The positive effects of a swing change were never instantly felt. Even though I was making changes for the better.

Some times, when things got tough and I didn’t want to keep fighting through the difficult change, I’d revert back to old habits. In the heat of the moment, it made things easier. But never did it help in the long run.

If I went back to old habits, it would feel good, but I was no better off.

Organizational change

Organizational change is no different. It’s just on a larger scale. With more zeros on the end.

You know the changes that need to be made in your organization. Changes that will help move things forward. Changes that will open the door for new growth. Changes that will get the right people on your team.

Changes that will help position you for a bigger community impact. Changes that will lead you into the next phase of development.

But when you try to implement those changes, your organization will take a couple of steps backwards before it take steps forward.

My context for organizational change is the local church. Maybe yours is the non-profit board you sit on. Or the company you work for. Or the small group you lead. Or the running club you’ve joined.

When the change process begins, there’s a tension that exists between what “was” and what “could be.”

What “was” represents what

  • isn’t that bad 
  • isn’t completely broken
  • is “safe”
  • is comfortable
  • is known
  • is controllable

What “could be” represents what

  • is difficult
  • is painful
  • doesn’t instantly make you feel good
  • causes us to swallow our pride
  • stretches us
  • isn’t controllable
  • could fail
  • is unknown

But you know what change needs to happen. You see things differently. You see a preferred future, with more growth, more impact, more products (or ideas, depending on your industry), and more lives changed. That’s why you’re there!

Quit complaining about things being tough! Without difficulties, there’d be no need for leadership. And you’d be out of a job. [Tweet that!]

Don’t let the regressive, two-step backwards process of change keep you from moving forward. Going back to old habits, to what feels comfortable and easy and well-worn, isn’t what’s good for you and your organization. Even though it’s more comfortable at the time.

Aim for what could be, and don’t stop until you get there. [Tweet that!]

Even if you get burned. Even if you fail. Even if it’s difficult. And trust me…it will be.

If you give up on the first few steps backwards, you’ll never realize the growth that change can bring. [Tweet that!]

I’m rooting for ya.


Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. – Proverbs 24:10


9 Statements that will Destroy your Small Group

Small Groups3

image credit: CreationSwap user George Webster

You don’t want your small group to fail. That’s not why you got into this. You want your group to succeed. You want people to grow and thrive in your group.

You want your group to be the one that people can’t wait to show up to. The one they talk to their friends about. The one that, in 10 years, they look back on and say, “That group changed my life.”

You don’t want people to dread your small group every week. To feel like they just have to come. To view it as a waste of time. To be the group of which they say, “Don’t join a small group. Mine is terrible.”

There’s a certain amount of your group’s success that you can’t control. God’s going to choose to bless or not. He’s going to sovereignly inspire group members to engage…or not. His hand of favor will be there…or not.

But there are statements you can make, personally, that will inevitably tank your group. That will guarantee you’ll get nothing out of it, and that you’ll create a terrible experience for the rest of your group. Statements that will destroy community rather than foster it.

9 Statements that will destroy your group

1. They need community more than I do. I’m just doing this for them.

You need healthy, authentic community as much as anyone does. You’re never above it, because God’s created you to live dependent on others.

2. They need to hear this.

Be careful that as you’re preparing for your small group that you don’t work your way through the material making notes about who in your group needs to hear a given truth…an not including your own name. Pride comes before the fall, my friend. (Proverbs 16:18)

3. I don’t have anything to give.

There may be weeks occasionally that you are empty and dry. But God’s given you gifts that are perfectly suited to lead your group. Don’t spit on God’s grace in your life by feigning a false, self-deprecating humility.

4. I don’t have time for this.

You are busy. So am I. You and I don’t have time to avoid community. The busier we are, the more we need others speaking truth and hope into our lives. When you say this, you place yourself over and above your group members, pridefully believing your life is more important than theirs.

5. Someone else will call them.

Don’t assume that someone else is going to call and encourage your group members. Or visit them in the hospital. Or call them after a new job interview. Or text them after a test. They’re not going to. You need to do the work of shepherding that’s vital for a group leader.

6. What they need is a ‘perfect’ leader. I probably shouldn’t confess my sins here.

Perfection in a small group leader isn’t what’s needed. And in fact, group members will connect with you more over your struggles and difficult times than they ever will with you through your victories. Be open and honest when you mess up.

7. Because I’m the leader I should probably talk more.

No. No. No. The best group leaders listen way more than they talk. Listening, and giving an appropriate (rather than a forced, canned, expected) response is much more honoring, respectful, and helpful. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

8. Curriculum? Pssht! I got this!

Don’t think that curriculum is evil. It’s not. It provides a backdrop for your group to have a conversation about truth. It’s not the end-all-be-all for your group. But it helps keep you on track and moving forward. Don’t think you’re “too good” for a focused study.

9. Evangelism? Nope.

Stop it. Quit thinking too narrowly about the Gospel. Too weakly about it. Too shallowly about the power of the Gospel to change lives. Stop it.

What other statements would you include that would destroy a small group?

Older posts

© 2016

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑