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By Carey

Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and is author of several best-selling books, including his latest #1 best-selling work, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. In addition to writing one of the mostly widely read Christian leadership blogs in the world, Carey hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews some of today’s best leaders.

grateful leaders

5 Reasons Grateful Leaders Make the Best Leaders

Ever notice the leaders you’re most attracted to tend to be the most grateful?

At least that’s true for me.

Grateful leaders make the best leaders.

And yet being in leadership can make you ungrateful…quickly.

You feel a pressure few others feel. You have responsibilities that will never fit into a job description.

You carry a weight around with you wherever you go.

It can wear you down.

One of the disciplines I’ve had as a leader is learning how to become grateful and stay grateful.

Sometimes the best way for me to do that is to remind myself why grateful leaders make the best leaders.

Here are 5 reasons why that’s true.

grateful leaders

1. Your overall gratitude impacts your overall attitude

A grateful leader tends to be a great leader. An ungrateful leader, well, never is.

I find when my gratitude is high, I just lead better.

I’m kinder. I’m more compassionate. I’m less resentful. I’m less suspicious.

Your overall gratitude impacts your overall attitude. So be grateful.

2. A grateful leader sees opportunities others miss

I believe a grateful attitude is tied to an abundance mentality. I’m a firm believer in abundance thinking.


If we have a God who created everything we see out of nothing and who rose after he died, he can accomplish anything—through me, without me and in spite of me. If he uses me…wow…that’s amazing!

Being grateful for what you have is tied, in a meaningful way, to thinking abundantly about the future.  Again…why?

Well, an ungrateful mind tends to translate what hasn’t happened into what can’t happen, what won’t happen and what will never happen.

A grateful mind thinks about everything that happened, gives thanks, and trust that even greater things can happen, will happen and should happen.

A grateful leader will almost always find the path to an abundant future.

And, for the ‘realists’ out there, you think feeling grateful won’t change anything?

Few people said it better than Henry Ford when he said “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.”

As a leader, what you think determine what you do.

3. Gratitude fuels generosity

I learned this principle years ago from Andy Stanley. Nothing fuels generosity more than gratitude.

Think about it. If someone’s given you anything (cash, a gift, their time), nothing makes that person want to give again quite like gratitude.

If you’re thankful for the time you’ve spent together, they’ll want to get together again. If you’re not, they won’t.

Ditto with giving to a church or organization. Leaders who are genuinely grateful for whatever they receive tend to be surrounded by people who want to give more.

Ungrateful leaders are soon surrounded by non-givers or, ultimately, by no-one.


4. Teams gravitate toward gratitude

Your team gravitates toward gratitude. Far too many people despise their work because they feel under appreciated.

You should always pay people well—as generously as you can in fact.

But even money has its limits.

Eventually, you can’t pay people enough to overcome an ungenerous spirit.

I’ve known people who have taken pay cuts because they would rather work for someone who was grateful than for an ungrateful leader.

Leaders, remember: gratitude is the greatest currency with which a leader can pay a team.

And, when it comes to volunteers, well gratitude is pretty much all your volunteers run on.

The best leaders realize that even their employees are, at their core, volunteers. Every capable person could work somewhere else.

5. Gratitude neutralizes your anger and jealousy

Grateful people are rarely angry.

And angry people are rarely grateful.

Ditto with jealous people.

Cultivating gratitude will make you far less angry (you’ll realize no one owes you anything) and it will make you far less jealous (because you’ll realize God has given you what you need).

Want to be far less angry and jealous? Stay on your knees long enough to be grateful.

What Makes You Grateful?

What helps you cultivate gratitude? I’d love to hear from you.

I wrote this post on 5 things that make me more grateful when I’m feeling ingratitude.

I’d love to hear your perspective. Scroll down and leave a comment.


CNLP 063: Stepping Into the Senior Leader’s Chair – An Interview with Tim Guptill

Ever wonder what it’s like to become the senior leaders in an organization?

Ever wonder what it’s like to succeed a successful leader who’s been there for 44 years?

Tim Guptill has done both, and tells the story of how he stepped into the senior leader’s role of the largest church in Eastern Canada after his predecessor retired after over four decades.

Welcome to Episode 63 of the Podcast.


Guest Links


Moncton Wesleyan Church

Tim on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Jud Wilhite; Episode 54

Andy Stanley; Episode 1

Jon Acuff; Episode 9

Pete Wilson; Episode 11

William Vanderbloemen; Episode 19

Perry Noble; Episode 2

Transition Plan: 7 Secrets Every Leader Needs to Know by Bob Russell

5 Reasons You Should Stop Taking Leadership SO Personally


3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Tim made the transition into senior leadership of a church whose pastor left a 44-year legacy. He tells us how he grew through vulnerability and persevered.

  1. Find security through your calling. You have to be good enough to recognize that who you are following brought great attributes to the church and the community. You’re taking a foundation and putting it in a fragile environment, no matter how solid the pastor and his formal work was. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during a transition of leadership. The congregation is anxious about the future of their church, and you’ll want to question everything. Listen to your calling, and be faithful to God.
  2. Stand behind your mission, vision and strategy. It’s going to take the congregation time to detach from the former leader, so establishing clarity will help tremendously. Tim had to emphasize that the message wasn’t going to change, but he established a new way to express it. “Ask the church to hang in there and give it a chance,” Tim says. “You can still honor the former leader in an honest way and build from what he has done.”
  3. Prepare yourself spiritually. Whatever height of leadership you hope to achieve, make a similar move spiritually. Your leadership height won’t exceed your spiritual depth. As great as a leader Tim wanted to be, he realized he had to go deep into his spiritual roots. Allow yourself to be a learner, find a mentor and read. If you want to be good at what you do, you have to grow in different realms of leadership.

Quotes from Tim 


Available now! Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 


My latest book is available now. It’s designed especially of church leaders and their teams.

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subject like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer change in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Jon Acuff

My friend Jon Acuff returns next week!

Very few people I know utilize humour better than Jon Acuff. I sat down with Jon backstage and asked him for his top tips on making people laugh and about his life as a solo enterpreneur and author. Plus, Jon shares a project he has planned for January that he’s inviting my podcast listeners into!

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 64.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

pastor behaves like a CEO

Why You Should Be Thankful If Your Pastor Behaves Like a CEO

Of all the things I hear church leaders slip into conversation, one of the most persistent is the opinion that a pastor should never adopt the attitudes or habits of a CEO.

Instead, the pastor should be a shepherd and tend the flock.

I recently wrote a post about how having the pastor do most or all of the pastoral care in a congregation permanently stunts the growth of most churches to 200 people or less.

I would also strongly argue that church leaders should rethink their bias against the pastor as CEO.


Two reasons.

First, both the model of shepherd and CEO are based in unidimensional and unhelpful stereotypes.

Second, because the mission and future of the church are fuelled by the growth and potential of our leaders.

pastor behaves like a CEO

Let’s Move Beyond Stereotypes

Let’s move beyond the stereotypes for a moment.

Shepherds are seen as caring, pastoral, gentle and kind.

CEOs are seen as arrogant, brash, selfish, difficult and demanding.

Neither characterization is helpful or, frankly, accurate.

Sure…you can think of CEOs or executive types who fit all the bad stereotypes.

And chances are you’ve made up what a shepherd looks like because, frankly, you’ve never met one. I haven’t.

This Was First Century Shepherding?

From what I know of first century shepherds (and I admit, I don’t have a degree in shepherding), it wasn’t all green meadows and sunshine. Shepherding took quite a bit of resolve and strength.

Shepherds had to keep sheep from drinking out of brackish or tainted water and keep them from poisoning themselves.

Shepherds had to fight off wolves, lions and thieves. Clubbing to lions to death and pulling a lamb out of the jaws of a bear are not for the fainthearted.

Apparently, first century Palestinian shepherds even would break the leg of a wandering sheep to correct its errant behaviour.

Try that at your next congregational meeting.

In an association we often miss, David himself claimed that shepherding prepared him to fight Goliath and, arguably, even become King. He saw it more as leadership development than anything, and leadership in one field ultimately opened leadership in others.

The job was demanding enough that, as Jesus himself said, it might require your life.

Run this description by any effective CEO and they might tell you “That sounds like my job.”

Maybe a first century shepherd was more like an effective CEO than we think.

This is What it Means To Be a CEO?

So are CEOs inherently brash, impatient, selfish, egomaniacs? Well, not effective ones.

Jim Collins’ exhaustive study of truly great companies (companies that outperformed their competitors substantially and significantly) discovered that the great companies had what he called Level 5 CEOs.

Collins and his team were shocked to discover a rare and endearing quality among the CEOs of the truly greatest companies: they had deep resolve to do whatever it took to advance the mission AND a deep, personal…are you ready—humility. 

To quote Collins:

[Level 5 CEOs] are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.

It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves.

The most effective CEOs are the most humble CEOs.

I ask you, isn’t that exactly what a Christian leader should be?

Sounds an awful lot like the Apostle Paul to me. Or like Moses. Even like Jesus (if you’re willing to strip away your stereotypes and read what scripture says about Jesus).

Consequently, isn’t that exactly what a great pastor could be?

Saying the model of pastor-as-CEO is bad for the church is like saying leadership really doesn’t matter. It’s also saying business should get all the best leaders.

The mission of the church is too important to be stunted by a poorly thought-through stereotype of a CEO.

If All We Do Is Care For People Until They Die, the Church Will Die

The next decade of the church is critical.

While it’s Christ’s church and God is sovereign, we leaders have a role to play. As even committed church attenders attend less often, the church requires the best leadership, not the most passive or the most friendly.

What often passes as ‘pastoral’ is not pastoral in the first-century sense of shepherding; it’s passive.

If all we do is recruit pastors who love to care for people until they die, the church will die.

I realize this is somewhat hyperbolic, but perhaps it’s less of an overstatement than you think. We’re closing churches in record numbers, largely because pastors want to ‘pastor’ but not lead.

I believe we should care for people until they die, but the pastor doesn’t need to be the sole person to do that.

98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.

Toward A New Generation of Leaders

So what should the next generation of pastors do?


Lead humbly. Lead with compassion. Lead with care.

But understand that sometimes leading with compassion means doing what’s best for people…not simply doing what people want. If first century shepherds did that, the sheep would be dead.

Quite simply, the job of a leader is to take people where they wouldn’t otherwise go.

You may be called to take people to the Promised Land, but people always want to go back to Egypt.

It takes tremendous strength, exceptional courage, trust, humility and a willingness to die to self to do accomplish the mission to which God has called the church.

This kind of leadership shift will mean the demise of the people-pleasing, co-dependent leader who longs to be liked. But maybe that’s okay.

The church needs thousands of new leaders who are willing to be incredibly unpopular but will resolve to do what needs to be done.

Somedays I wonder how many Christian CEOs of small and large companies might have been in ministry if our model, expectations and attitude was different.

Next Time Your Pastor Behaves Like a CEO

So what would make this situation better?

Think twice before you say the church needs more shepherds. Or if you do talk about the need for shepherds, talk about the kind of shepherd David was. We sure need more of those.

And think three times before you slam the idea of church leaders being CEOs.

Read a book like Jim Collin’s Good to Great.

Think more deeply about whether the church needs more entrepreneurs. (For reasons outlined here, I believe that’s exactly what we need.)

Realize that truly great CEOs often model exactly what scripture talks about in terms of great leadership, and that maybe our entire mission would advance if we valued those gifts more deeply.

And finally, next time someone says your pastor is behaving like a (Level 5) CEO, be thankful.

More people might be in heaven because of it.

If you want to drill down further, I wrote much more about why the vast majority of churches don’t grow in my latest bookLasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

What Do You Think?

I realize this is an emotional subject, so play nice in the comments.

But what do you think?

Is the quick dismissal of potentially effective leadership in the church hurting us? How?

Scroll down and leave a comment.


7 Ways to Recover As a Leader After You’ve Messed Up

As a result, the dreams of most pastors of small and even mid-sized churches go unrealized. Why?We all make mistakes. Almost daily.

Okay, daily. We’re human.

Some mistakes go unnoticed. So you take notes and hope not to repeat.

But what happens when you blow it and people do notice? Sometimes everyone knows you made a mistake but no one’s saying anything. Should you break the ice? And if so how?

Or what about those situations when people confront you or bring it up? How can you recover as a leader without losing face?

Believe it or not, there is a way you can handle it that, in most cases, will actually increase people’s respect for you.

You might even impress people with how you’ve handled it. Do it often enough when you’ve made a mistake, and you might even get a promotion.

Best yet, this approach to recovering after you’ve messed up is not just a work tip: it’s a life tip.

Practice it when you’ve let your spouse down, kids down, or friends down and your relationships will almost always get better.

recover as a leader

Battle Your Instincts

The temptation you will have when you blow a situation will be to do what we all want to do:

Hide it.

Hope no one finds out.

Minimize it.

Blame someone.

Justify it.

Battle all five instincts every time. If you can do this, you’re on your way to overcoming the problem that sinks most people when it comes to owning mistakes.

But you need to replace those defaults with specific actions.

7 Ways to Recover as a Leader

As you battle those instincts, replace them with these 7 actions and you’ll find yourself in a very different situation.

Your boss, spouse, friend or team member will probably respect you more and even trust you more if you do these 7 things.

1. Be the first to break the news

Remember, you’re going to want to hide your mistake. Cover it up.

And yet most leaders—especially bosses— hate surprises. I do. So don’t let them discover your mistake. Tell them first. Break the news.

As soon as you detect even the potential of a problem, let your leader know.

Instead of reducing your boss’s confidence in your leadership, it will increase it.

Send the text. Make the phone call. Stop by the office. Look your boss in the eye. Tell them.

2. Fully state the seriousness of the problem

Here’s what I know to be true. Things are almost always worse than you first think they are. So don’t minimize a problem or blow it off. Fully state the seriousness of the problem. If you’re going to lean toward overstating or understating a problem, overstate it.

Why should you overstate it?

Think through a time when someone’s let you down and understated the problem. If you’ve had a team member tell you something is ‘no big deal’ only for you to discover it’s a bigger deal than they told you, what happens to you inside? I know I feel like saying, “Do you realize how serious this is? Do you even understand the issue?” And your confidence in them drops.

I am always thankful when something doesn’t turn out to be as serious as people initially thought it might be. I’ll bet you feel the same way.

So fully state the seriousness of an issue. Even overstate it if you’re not sure.

3. Own the problem completely, even if you didn’t directly cause it

Great leaders own problems. Even the problems they didn’t directly cause.

Here’s how I think of my own leadership: If I’m the leader, I’m responsible.

This is difficult, because often I didn’t directly cause the problem. I wasn’t in the room, at the meeting or even at the event. But if I’m the leader, it’s still my responsibility when things go wrong.

By owning up to your responsibility, you demonstrate a brand of leadership that is far too rare.

4. Offer the most complete diagnosis you can

Part of owning an issue is demonstrating you are doing everything in your power to diagnosis and remedy the situation.

Rarely will you have all the information you need to make a full diagnosis when a problem emerges, but bring everything you have to the table every time. Again, this will increase your boss’s confidence in the fact that you are on it.

Again, if your boss knows you were the first to come forward, you understand the problem, you’re owning it and you’re working on it, his or her confidence in you rises, even though you’ve made a mistake.

5. Get input

Because you’re still struggling to some extent with shame or fear, you’ll be tempted to think, “well since I’m responsible, I have to fix this.” It’s like when you knocked that vase off the living room end table when you were 8 and tried to glue it back together so your parents would never know. Those instincts never really go away.

But sometimes you can’t fix what broke on your own. In fact, usually you can’t.

So get help. Be open. Ask for input.

An open leader is a great leader. Great leaders know they have blind spots. So get input from the team around you (and your boss) on what the issue might be.

You’ll get a better diagnosis, a better solution and a better team as a result.

6. Follow up quickly and often, until it’s fully resolved

Don’t make your boss or team members keep asking you whether you’re on it. Give them updates.

Give daily updates if it’s serious. Hourly if necessary. Just remind them you’re on it.

7. Fix the system, not just the problem

Once the problem has been resolved, go the extra mile and ask yourself, “was this really a completely unpreventable problem, or is this a systems issue?”

Chances are something in your current system produced the result. As you know, your system is perfectly designed to get the results it’s currently getting, good or bad.

Go back to your boss or team and now work on the larger issue of how to handle the systems issues that will help ensure problems like this won’t happen again.

I know this is all counterintuitive, but every time I’ve seen someone follow this process for handling a mistake, I am impressed. My confidence in them grows. It doesn’t diminish. I often want to promote them or at least give them greater responsibility.

And if you adopt this approach, it will not just help you solve an issue, it will make you a better leader.

It will also make you a better spouse, parent, friend and citizen.

What have you found helpful in solving problems? Anything you would add to the list?

Leave a comment!


CNLP 062: Jerry Gillis on Attractional or Missional Church? How One MegaChurch is Doing Both

Jerry was doing something rare: leading a growing megachurch in Buffalo NY, when he got tired of running ‘a machine.’

After a year of prayer and study, he decided being an attractional church wasn’t enough, and The Chapel started becoming far more missional. The interview outlines how that happened, and what happened next.

Welcome to Episode 62 of the Podcast.



Guest Links

Jerry Gillis

The Chapel 

Christ Together

Northgate Church


Links Mentioned in this Episode

Andy Stanley; Episode 1

Perry Noble; Episode 2

Craig Groschele; Episode 17 and Episode 52

Ravi Zacharias; Episode 53

Mark Batterson; Episode 32

Pete Wilson; Episode 11

Jeff Henderson; Episode 16

Jon Acuff; Episode 9

Lewis Howes; Episode 59

Jon Hasselback

Renovation Church


Things You Can Do Right Away

Jerry talks about how he took steps to align his church to do the missional work of God. Here’s how he broke it down:

  1. There has to be a geographic intentionality. Your congregation has been placed in its location by the sovereign spirit of God for a reason. You are to work toward reducing the darkness of where you are in your location, and you do that by a circle of accountability. Within that sphere, you want to know what’s going on within that sphere of the community. You figure out how to optimize your resources to figure out the saturation of the gospel, not just in declaration, but in demonstration.
  2. There has to be partnership in the greater body of Christ. The body of Christ is at work, and it’s not the chapel’s job to get that done. It’s the Church as a whole to get the job to get it done.
  3. There needs to be an interdependence in leadership. All functions of leadership need to be engaged in a region or city to see the full equipping and mobilization of the people of God so that they can be released to fulfill the mission of God. You can’t play Moses on the mountain anymore. That’s an Old Testament construct we’ve tried to import into the New Testament. You are a functioning part of leadership within the Body, and you have to function interdependently in your local church context,  context but in your regional context if you’re going to see the mission of God carried out.
  4. Spiritual formation has to be a priority. The genius of God is the spirit of God within his people distributed to all places. We don’t want to mobilize empty shells. We want to see the mobilization of people in a transformational, rich relationship with the living Christ. That will see a transformation in the places they’ll go.

Quotes from Jerry


Available online now! Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 


My latest book is available now. It’s designed especially of church leaders and their teams.

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subject like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer change in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Tim Guptill

Ever wonder what it’s like to become the senior leaders in an organization? Every wonder what it’s like to succeed a successful leader who’s been there for 44 years? Tim Guptill has done both, and tells the story of how he stepped into the senior leader’s role of the largest church in Eastern Canada after his predecessor retired after over four decades.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 63.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches

Of all the mysteries that shouldn’t be mysteries, why most churches remain small is perhaps the greatest.

I’m sure there are a few leaders who want to keep their churches small, or who don’t care about growth.

But most small church leaders and pastors I meet actually want to reach more people. They want to see their mission fully realized. They hope and pray for the day when they can reach as many people as possible in their community.

But that’s simply not reality.

The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. 60% of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending.

As a result, the dreams of pastors of most small and even mid-sized churches go unrealized. Why?

I outlined 8 reasons most churches never break the 200 attendance mark in this post, but today I want to drill down deeper on one that kills almost every church and pastor: pastoral care.

If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow.

Here’s why. And here’s how.

shutterstock_62970499How Pastors Die Trying

When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and funeral and make regular house calls, attend every meeting, and lead every bible study or group, he or she becomes incapable of doing almost anything else.

Message preparation falls to the side, and providing organizational leadership for the future is almost out of the question.

The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.

It’s somewhat ironic, actually.

If you’re a good pastoral care person (and many pastors are), people will often love you so much that the church will grow to two hundred people, at which point the pastoral care expectations become crushing.

Inevitably, pastoral leaders with larger churches can’t keep up and end up disappointing people when they can’t get to every event any more.

Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.

Many pastors burn out trying.

The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations.

Consequently, almost everyone gets hurt in the process.

The pastor is frustrated that he or she can’t keep up. And the congregation is frustrated over the same thing.

Eventually the pastor burns out or leaves and the church shrinks back to a smaller number. If a new pastor arrives who also happens to be good at pastoral care, the pattern simply repeats itself: growth, frustration, burnout, exit.

It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up.

Or, if you stay for a long time, your church settles down to around 100 people and you simply can’t grow it beyond that.

Why? Because, as I explain in some detail in my new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, you haven’t structured bigger to grow bigger.

Complication 1: Pastors Who Won’t Let Go

Several other factors make pastoral care complicated.

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature (if that’s you…read this). Wanting to not disappoint people fuels conflict within leaders: people want you to care for them, and you hate to disappoint them.

In some respect, pastoral care establishes classic co-dependency. The congregation relies on the pastor for all of its care needs, and the pastor relies on the congregation to provide their sense of worth and fulfilment: the pastor needs to be needed.

Complication 2: Congregations That Won’t Let Go

Many congregations define the success of their leader according to how available, likeable and friendly their pastor is.

It’s as though churches want a puppy, not a pastor.

Since when did that become the criteria for effective Christian leadership?

By that standard, Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, the Apostle Paul and perhaps even Jesus failed the test.

The goal of Christian leadership is to lead, not to be liked.

That’s no excuse for being a jerk or insensitive, but still, leadership requires that at times, you need to do what’s best, not what people want.

If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.

That’s a tough sell for many congregations, but if a church is going to grow, it has to happen.

How to Break Through

So how do you deal with this?  Have the courage to shift care to the congregation.

The best answer I know of for pastoral care in a larger church is to teach people to care for each other in groups.

Groups based care isn’t just practical. It’s biblical.

It’s thoroughly biblical: going back to Exodus 18, when Jethro confronted Moses about doing everything himself.

Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of  disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one.

I have been the pastoral care giver in a small church. Some of those original people are now part of our much larger church where care happens in groups. In the process, both they and I have made the transition.

As a result, here’s what I’ve come to believe about pastoral care: 98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.

2% of the time you’ll have situations where the need of a member exceeds the ability of the group to help. That’s what trained Christian counsellors are for. The tool kit of a trained Christian counsellor is deeper and better than the counselling ability of the vast majority of pastors.

I rarely if ever counsel people. Why? Because I care about people too much. Instead, I send them to people who can actually help them.

If you’re wondering how to start the discussion, I started it with my elders and leaders when we were about 100 in attendance and told them my role would be changing. I used this book as a resource, and told them that we would never break 200 in attendance unless I stopped doing pastoral care.

It was a tough, but we made it.  We now have a church of 2300 people with almost 1100 in attendance on weekends.

It’s tempting to say I’d be dead if I was still trying to do pastoral care personally, but that’s simply not true.

I’d be alive, very tired (it’s not my key gifting) and our church would be under 200 people. I also likely would have quit. We would never have grown. That’s the reality.

It’s simply impossible for a church to grow beyond 200 under one person’s direct care and leadership.

Too Scared?

Too scared to have the conversation?

If you’re a people pleaser, do what you need to do to get over it. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people.

If you’re afraid to have the conversation, have it anyway. I actually designed my latest book, Lasting Impact, to facilitate 7 critical conversations like this directly with your board and leadership team.

Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end.

Eventually, many of them will thank you.

And the rest? Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching a lot people either.

I’m convinced that if we changed how we do pastoral care, we’d reach more people. And in the process, we’d care for people much better than we do now.

If you want to go deeper, on Episode 58 of my free weekly leadership podcast, Beth Marshall explains how they do pastoral care at NewSpring church, a church that reaches over 40,000 people each weekend.

What do you think? Scroll down and leave a comment.


7 Things Every Growing Church Struggles With

It’s easy to believe that there will come a day when your church will never struggle and you’ll never struggle as a leader.

As tempting as that is to believe, it’s just not true.

Every church struggles. And every leader struggles. And—yes—even growing churches struggle.

Last week I outlined the struggles smaller churches experience in my post 5 Things Every Small To Mid-Sized Church Struggles With. Having started ministry in very small churches, I can relate to each of those struggles personally.

But your struggles as a leader or as a church don’t go away when your church starts to grow. They simply change.

I’ve always said I’d rather have the challenges associated with growth than I would the challenges associated with decline (and that’s absolutely true), but it still means you have challenges.

As our church has grown from a handful of people to 1,100 people who now attend and 2,300 people who call our church home, we’ve navigated all of these challenges. So has almost every church that’s grown.

Here are 7 things every growing church struggles with.

growing churches struggle

1. The pastor being less available

I began ministry in a church of 6 people (and that was a normal Sunday…a bad Sunday was 2 people). When your church is really small, you’re pretty much available to do anything anyone needs. How can you argue you’re not available when you lead a tiny church?

But as your church grows, you need to begin a transition away from being available all the time. If you don’t, you will implode or your church will stop growing.

You can be generally available to 20 people.

You will wear yourself out trying to be consistently available for 200 people.

You’ll die trying to be available to 2000 people. Frankly, you’ll never even serve that many people because it’s humanly impossible, even if you worked 7 days a week, 20 hours a day. People will just walk away, their calls unanswered and their needs unmet.

As my friend Reggie Joiner says, the problem with needs-based ministry is there’s no end to human need.

Your church will struggle with the pastor being less available as it grows.  But it will struggle even more if you don’t restructure to grow bigger.

To reach more people, you need to be available to fewer people.

I wrote more about scaling your ministry through different stages in my new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, available here.

2. The pastor not doing everything

A companion of being less available as a church grows is the reality that a pastor can’t do everything.

Many pastors of small churches start out as jacks of all trades: preacher, pastor, chaplain, wedding officiant, funeral officiant, bible study leader, team leader, curriculum designer and even friend who drops by.

When your church is small, it’s natural for the pastor to do almost all the work, because it seems there is no one else available to do it, and no money to outsource it or to hire anyone else.

When I started in ministry, in addition to preaching, teaching and vision casting (my primary gifitings) I also designed and printed the bulletins, created any computer graphics, performed weddings and funerals, visited in hospital, led the church bible study and was actively involved in our kids ministry. I was only mediocre at most things on that list, and terrible at a few.

As our church has grown, my role has become narrower and narrower.

At 200 Pastoral care became a groups and congregational responsibility. So did bible study (which became small groups instead).

At 400, I let go of graphics and design entirely (thankfully).  I also go out of direct involvement in student and children’s ministry as we hired people (I still share the the vision, but no longer own the responsibility).

At 800, I stepped back from leading and attending most meetings and almost everything else to focus on preaching, teaching, vision casting and senior leadership.

The struggle here is dual: you will struggle with letting go, and people will struggle with you letting go.

If you want to grow, you have to let go.

And, of course, as Andy Stanley says, by doing less you’ll accomplish more. Far more.

This sounds like a small thing, but it’s a big thing.

3. Not knowing everyone’s name

People who are part of a small church panic about not knowing everyone’s name as a church grows.

Time to challenge that assumption. Why panic?

Truthfully most people don’t know everyone, even in a church of 50.

Human reality dictates we can only truly know about 5 people deeply and about 20 people well.

Which again leads to small groups and serving teams. You can (and should) organize hundreds and even thousands of people to be known in smaller circles of groups and teams.

The point or church is not for everyone to know everyone. The point is for everyone to be known.

I think I have a personal capacity to know between 1,500 to 2,000 people by name and then my mind fries. Our church (and my life) has grown beyond that. At one point I tried to know all of our volunteers by name, but even now, I get stumped (the volunteer name tags really help me).

If you’re leading a growing church, embrace that. Create a church where everyone who wants to be known…is.

You will reach far more people if you do.

4. Shifting from leading people to leading leaders

If you’re going to lead a growing church effectively, you have to begin leading leaders instead of leading people.

That’s a hard shift for many people, including church staff.

There’s a temptation to want to be known and recognized by everyone you’re leading. The truly great leaders are prepared not to do that.

They realize that their greatest success will be found in leading staff and volunteers who can, in turn, lead others.

Which also means sometimes they get the credit rather than you. Which again, is fine if you’re committed to becoming an effective leader.

If you’re not fine with others receiving the credit, you’ll eventually stunt the church’s growth to the level of your insecurity.

If you struggle with insecurity, by the way, this is an amazing conversation with Josh Gagnon, who leads a top 5 fastest growing church in America and has had to battle his own insecruities in doing so.

But you must shift from leading people to leading leaders if you hope to reach more people.

5. Adding systems

This is a hard one for any entrepreneurial leader (like myself). I love freedom and even spontaneity.

But for your church to ever sustainably pass 500 in attendance, let alone 1000, you have to have systems.

Many entrepreneurial leaders are afraid of systems and structure because they think it means the creation of bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy stifles mission. Great systems fuel it.

Like an office tower designed to house thousands of people, great systems and structure support the goals of the organization with lean but solid processes around finances, management, discipleship and even the weekend services a church offers.

Without structure, freedom collapses into chaos and disorganization.

The novice leader values freedom from structure. The mature leader values freedom in structure.

Without great systems that foster care for people, you won’t care for people.

6. Saying no

‘Yes’ gets you to initial growth; ‘No’ gets you to sustained growth.

Many pastoral leaders are people pleasers. As I argue here, that can be deadly.

Most great organizations become effective not just because they decided what they are, but fundamentally because they decided what they are not.

As you grow, more and more people will show up with ideas about how to make things better.

Having a clearly defined mission, vision, strategy and culture will help you decide what to say yes to and what to say no to.

The leader who says yes to everything ultimately says yes to nothing.

7. Dealing with critics

So once you start growing, all the critics will disappear, correct?

Sorry to break the news…but just the opposite. They’ll line up.

You’ll have internal critics who want things to be the way they used to be. After all, the people heading for the Promised Land always want to go back to Egypt.

But the critics are not just internal, growth attracts a growing number of external critics.

Our generation seems to specialize in encouraging leaders and organizations to grow and then criticizing them when they do.

And before you accuse others, there’s a 99% chance you’ve thought or said something negative about a large church pastor you resent.

Growth attracts critics. It just always does.

So how do you process the criticism when you’re the one being criticized?

The best way to process what your critics have to say is to understand why they say it.

First, take whatever good there might in what they said and reflect on it. You’re not perfect. You can learn and develop from it.

But then process why the critics are often so mean-spirited.

What usually fuels a critics’ animosity toward success and growth? Three things:


A need to justify their own lack of progress


Once you understand that a critic’s arguments are often less about you than they are about them, you’re free to show compassion and even concern for them.

Want More?

I wrote more about the issues the stop and fuel growth in my new book Lasting Impact.

And I’d love to hear from you. What other struggles have you seen or experienced in growing churches?  Scroll down and leave a comment.

Josh Gagnon and Carey Nieuwhof

CNLP 061: The Insecure Leader – An Interview with Josh Gagnon

Why are so many leaders—even successful leaders—insecure?

In this exceptionally candid interview, Josh Gagnon, who pastors the 5th fastest growing church in America, talks about insecurity, ambition and how to overcome your personal issues while leading

Welcome to Episode 61 of the Podcast.

Josh Gagnon and Carey Nieuwhof


Guest Links

Josh Gagnon

Episode 17

The Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast

Josh on Facebook

Josh on Twitter

Next Level Church

Next Level Church on Facebook

Next Level Church on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Orange Tour

Craig Groeschel; Episode 52

Andy Stanley

Steven Furtick

Reggie Joiner

Casey Graham

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

  1. Find the root of the insecurity. For Josh, it was no one ever believing that he could never do what God called him to do. When he realized he lacked affirmation, he sought a counselor  and discovered that the greatest answers in life come from the right questions. Do you see insecurity in your conversations? Do you hear insecurity when you talk? When you start to identify that what you’re doing is through insecurity, you can address the problem.
  2. Admit you’re insecure. Insecure people don’t feel good about themselves and have something to prove to others. Senior pastors work really hard, it’s for other people, and they don’t get the credit. It creates an insecurity for pastors because it’s God gets all the recognition, and that’s ok. Security is going to come when you see yourself as a representation of God, and you’re ok with how God has chosen to use you. When the church becomes your identity, it never gives you what you hoped it would give. But if you allow God to grant your identity, you can walk in security.
  3. Find a mentor. Get a mentor who’s older than you, because the more you listen to their guidance, you’re taking advantage of the fruit they have to offer. Give people permission to speak into your weaknesses and insecurities, and open yourself up to vulnerability. Ask questions with pure intentions and allow your mentor to offer wisdom they didn’t even know they had. Try to find out where you’re the weakest, and start from there.

Quotes from Josh

Available online now! Get your copy of Lasting Impact today! 


My latest book is available now. It’s designed especially of church leaders and their teams.

Lasting Impact frames 7 pivotal conversations every church team needs to have, covering subject like declining church attendance, team health, creating a culture volunteers love and how to engineer change in your church.

Order on Amazon, or visit LastingImpactBook.com!

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

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Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Jerry Gillis

So is the missional or attractional church the future of the church? We’ll talk to Jerry Gillis, a mega-church pastor from Buffalo NY who says the answer is yes, and will show you exactly why and how that’s true.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 62.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

leadership myths

5 Stubborn Leadership Myths You Should Abandon Immediately

How do you know you haven’t fallen for a leadership myth that simply isn’t true?

Answer: sometimes you don’t.

Too many leaders hold a few damaging core beliefs that simply aren’t true.

Myths are everywhere in our culture.

It’s not that hard to roll our eyes at people who fall for urban legends.

That’s one of the reasons I really appreciate Snopes.com, a site dedicated to debunking urban legends.

Remember the stubborn myth a few years back about hotel operators using hotel key cards to download all your personal information? Because I stay in hotels regularly, so many people warned me about my hotel key. Thanks Snopes…..

But there are also leadership myths: But there are also leadership myths: things that many leaders believe that really aren’t true.

I think we’ve all fallen for a few.

But how many stubborn leadership myths are you still falling for?

Once you abandon them, you’ll be amazed at the progress you make.

leadership myths

5 Leadership Myths You Should Abandon

Here are 5 that I hate to admit I have fallen for at one time or another in my leadership.

1. Success will happen overnight

Who hasn’t fallen for this? And if you don’t believe it, you’ve secretly wanted it, haven’t you?

Yet there are very few overnight successes.

Whether it’s bands like PassengerThe Band Perry or even the Beatles, musicians often struggle in obscurity and near defeat for years before they break through.  Same for writers, businesses and many other leaders.

Even North Point Church, launched in 1995, actually declined in attendance from its initial launch over its first few years before rebounding and becoming the story many church leaders know today.

Just ask any of the founders: they’ll tell you those first few years were lean and very difficult.

So what do you do?

Set realistic expectations. Work hard. Celebrate progress, even incremental progress.

As Winston Churchill (whose life was characterized mostly by disappointment prior to Word War 2) said, success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

2. Smart work, not hard work, will win the day

Okay. Working smarter is better than simply working harder. Very true.

Working 100+  hours a week is the answer to very few problems and completely unsustainable for more than a season. If you can be more efficient and more effective, by all means do so.

But smart work is no substitute for hard work. Working smarter doesn’t mean you can put in a few hours, hit cruise control and coast to victory.

You will always have to work hard on your leadership. You’ll always have to work hard on leading yourself, your team and your mission.

That might not mean 70 hours a week, but it won’t mean cruising into the sunset. When you stop growing, so do the people around you.

And eventually, the good people will leave. They want a leader to push them and push the mission forward.

3. I will get universal buy in

This myth is so seductive.

There will be a day when I become a good enough leader that I will announce our next move and everyone will applaud wildly, right?


That day will never come.

You might get most people to buy in, but you will never get everyone to buy in.

This kills most leaders because it causes them to procrastinate. The myth makes them ‘wait’ until all the conditions are right to launch their big move.

Conditions will never be perfect. ‘Everybody’ will never buy in.

Sometimes you just need to lead.

If you want to read more about how to lead change in the midst of opposition, I wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies that Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change While Facing Opposition to help leaders lead without universal buy in.

4. There’s a silver bullet

So there’s one thing that will turn everything around right? A silver bullet? A model I can just embrace and press play and everything will magically be wonderful? Right?

If I only became a North Point strategic partner, my church would automatically grow….

If I only had person X on my staff, all our problems would be gone….

If we had a brand new building, it would solve all the issues we’re facing…



As my friend Casey Graham says, systems trump silver bullets.

And they really do. If you have a problem, the system you’re using created it.

To change the outcome, change the system. There is no easy way out.

5. One day I will arrive

No you won’t.

And if you do, you’ll arrive to learn you’ve missed the point.

Effective leaders keep growing. They never stop.

One of the characteristics of great leaders who stay fresh is curiosity (I wrote about how to become a more curious–and less cynical–leader in this post). They are just relentlessly curious, and the curiosity keeps them growing.

Organization that become complacent, like people who become complacent, inevitably decline.

The more successful you are, the more you will be tempted to think you have arrived.

That’s why the greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

Busting those 5 leadership myths have helped me grow as a leader.

How about you? What myths are you busting through?

Leave a comment!


5 Things Every Small To Mid-Sized Church Struggles With

Of all the subjects I deal with on this blog, church size generates a LOT of reaction and emotion.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark struck a deep nerve.

As I outline in my new book, people clearly have strong opinions and emotions about the size of churches that can (and should) be overcome.

But I can also totally relate to the dynamics of leading a smaller church.

When I began in ministry, I spent about 3 years leading a small congregation (under 100) that grew into a mid-sized church (under 500) and then grew into a larger church.

I remember the emotions that swirl around small and mid-sized churches. I also have lived through the struggles those congregations face.

This post (like the last one) is written for church leaders and teams that want to reach more people. If you don’t want to grow, this post won’t help you much.

It’s critical that as church leaders we understand the tensions we’re facing. In the same way that diagnosing that pain under your kneecap when you’re trying to run a race is helpful, diagnosing what you sense in the congregation can be critical to taking your next step forward.

Overcome these tensions and you’re closer to progress. Avoid them or fail to deal with them and you can stay stuck a long time.

So, here are 5 problems every small to mid-sized church encounters.

shutterstock_2915936241. The desire to keep the church one big family

This pressure is huge.

Many people believe that the church functions best as one big family.

The reality is even when our church was 40 people, those 40 people didn’t know each other—really. Some were left out, others weren’t.

Even at 100 or 300, enough people will still believe they know ‘everyone’. But they don’t.

When people told me they knew everyone I would challenge people (nicely) and say “Really, you know everyone? Because as much as I wish I did, I don’t.” They would then admit they didn’t know everyone. They just knew the people they knew and liked and often felt that growing the church would threaten that.

The truth is, at 100-300, many people are unknown. And even if ‘we all wear name-tags,” many of the people in your church don’t really have anyone to talk to about what matters. The one big family idea is, in almost every case, a myth.

Once you get beyond a dozen people, start organizing in groups. Everyone will have a home. Everyone who wants to be known and have meaningful relationships will have them. And a healthy groups model is scalable to hundred, thousands and even beyond that.

2. The people who hold positions don’t always hold the power 

In many small churches, your board may be your board, but often there are people—and even families—whose opinion carries tremendous weight.

If one of those people sits on the board, they end up with a de facto veto because no one wants to make a move without their buy in. If they are not on the board, decisions the board makes or a leader makes can get ‘undone’ if the person or family disapproves.

This misuse of power is unhealthy and needs to be stopped.

In the churches where I began, I took the power away from these people by going head to head with them, then handed it back to the people who are supposed to have the power.

In two out of three cases, the person left the church after it was clear I would not allow them to run it anymore.

It’s a tough call, but the church was far better off for it. When the people who are gifted to lead get to lead, the church becomes healthy. When we got healthy, we grew.

3. The pastor carries expectations no human can fulfil

In most small to mid sized churches, the pastor is expected to attend (if not conduct) every wedding, funeral, hospital call or meeting, visit people in their homes, write a killer message every Sunday, organize most of the activities of the church, be present for all functions AND have a great family life.

In other words, the pastor carries expectations no human can fulfil.

The key here for those who want to grow past this is to set clear expectations of what you will spend your time on.

I visited people in their homes and in hospital for the first two years, but then we went to a groups model. I explained (for what seemed like forever) how care was shifting from me to the congregation.

I stopped attending every church event.

We developed a great counseling referral network. And I started focusing on what I can best contribute given my gift set: communication, charting a course for the future, developing our best leaders, casting vision and raising resources.

Many small church pastors are actually more burnt out than large church pastors.

Small church pastors, please realize this: if the key to growing your church is to work more hours, you’re sunk. Work better and smarter with clearer boundaries and expectations. Don’t just work longer.

Once you master that, you can thrive, even as your church grows.

If you want more on burnout and recovery, this post has some helpful insights on burnout and what to do to get over it.

In addition, Beth Marshall from NewSpring Church explains how pastoral care can and should scale as your church reaches hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of people in this podcast below. You can listen on the player below on download the podcast on your phone here via iTunes.

4. Tradition has more pull than vision

This is not just about traditional churches—it’s true of church plants too.

The past has a nostalgia to it that the future never does.

Even the recent past. Remember how great the church felt when it was smaller, more intimate and met in the living room/school/old facility?

The challenge for the leader is to cast a vision that is clear enough and compelling enough to pull people from the familiar past into a brighter future.

5. The natural desire to do more, not less

As you grow, you will be tempted to do more. Every time there are more people/money/resources, the pressure will be strong to add programming and complexity to your organization.

Resist that. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Often the key to reaching more is doing less. By doing a few things well and creating steps, not programs, you will help more people grow faster than almost any other way.

The two books that have helped me see this more than any other resources are Andy Stanley, Lane Jones and Reggie Joiner’s Seven Practices of Effective Ministry and Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church. These two books helped our team resist the pressure to do more simply because we could.

Complexity is often the enemy of progress.

What tensions do you face or have you faced in small to mid-sized churches?

How are you handling them? Scroll down and leave a comment.

And if the subject of small churches versus large churches still bothers you, have a listen to this interview I did with Karl Vaters. The direct download off iTunes is here.