From Leadership

Why You’re Not As Grateful As You Think You Should Be

My suspicion is that most of us are not nearly as grateful as we should be.

You have a lot. I have a lot.

We put on a good face for Thanksgiving, and maybe even update our Facebook statuses outlining our gratitude.

Sometimes we make a list (public or private) of what we’re thankful for, but deep down…there’s a discontent.

And if you’ve read this far, you know it.

So many leaders (and people) I know have a gnawing dissatisfaction that leaves us feeling less grateful than we know we ought to.

So…why?

In light of all we have and God’s faithfulness, why are you not more grateful?

There are at least three things that kill gratitude.

Here are 3 things that show up in my life and the lives of other leaders I track with.

Identify and keep them in check, and gratitude grows. Leave them unattended, and gratitude dissipates:

1. High Expectations

The secret to happiness, as you may have heard, is low expectations.

Think about that.

If you had no expectations of anyone or anything, you’d be happy. And grateful.

This might one of the reasons  those of us who have been on mission trips are always so shocked at how happy the poor in other countries seem to be; they expect little and are grateful for what they have.

I’m NOT justifying poverty, I’m just saying there’s little denying that the poor in the developing world often display far more gratitude than the rich. Unrealistic expectations might also explain why so many rich and middle class people are so miserable.

So…as a leader AND as Christ follower, husband, dad and friend, probably the biggest gratitude killer for me is high expectations.

My expectations of myself are very high. And they’re also high of others.

I think I know what you’re thinking. Well if my expectations weren’t high, then what would happen to my life/organization/mission? 

Great question.

Perhaps there’s a subtle but important distinction between standards and expectations. 

A high standard is not a bad thing. You should set high standards for yourself and for your church or organization.

But when those standards become expectations, only disappointment ensues, because you’re dealing with flawed people.

When you invite people to live according to high standards, you help bring out the best in them. Who doesn’t want to live a better life?

Keeping them as standards (not expectations) allows you to celebrate their success when it happens and to allows you to come alongside them and encourage them in the event of failure.

Think about your last seven days? Chances are every time you got angry or frustrated with someone it was because you expected something and they felt short. Expectations just make you miserable.

Now, keep the standard of behaviour the same, but instead of expecting they would do what you hoped they would do, come alongside them, talk about the standard, and help them reach it.

Totally different isn’t it?

2. The Thirst for More

If you had what you have now back when you were 15, you would have thought you won the lottery, wouldn’t you?

And yet chances are you feel you don’t have enough. As this article points out, almost everyone feels like they need more money to be content, no matter how much money they make.

Advertising in the Western world is built on the idea of discontent. The very thing they sold you last year as the ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ isn’t good enough.

This desire for wanting what you don’t have shows up sexually as lust, financially as greed, in diet as gluttony and in power as ambition.

The reality, of course, is that ‘more’ never delivers what it promises. Or if it does, the satisfaction is temporary and is followed by an even deeper emptiness. Having had what you desired only to have it disappoint you is more bitter than sweet. And, left unchecked, you plunge yourself right back into your quest for ‘more’ hoping that the next acquisition will finally satisfy you. Which, of course, it won’t.

The best way I know how to battle the thirst for more in my life is to call it for what it is—an empty, vain pursuit. For sure, being grateful for what I have is definitely part of it. But simply acknowledging sometimes out loud before God that this chase is bankrupt also helps.

I need to allow God to determine size. I simply need to be obedient. And then if more does come my way, obedient with what I have. It’s God’s, after all, not mine.

3. Comparison

Fuelling the thirst for more and high expectations is comparison.

Think about it. You were fine with what you had…until you saw what someone else had.

Comparison fuels jealousy, envy, greed and selfish ambition.

And while I love social media and the hyper-connectedness we have today, it can pour jet fuel on the envious blaze already ignited in your heart.

The New York Times calls it the agony of Instagram, and they’re right. Scrolling through someone’s oh-so-perfect life can make you feel worthless compared to their perfect chef’s kitchen and artsy dining room table.

Every preacher is now stacked up against every mega-church preacher courtesy of podcasts and online church.

And even if your people don’t compare you, you compare you. Why do we fight a battle we lose every time?

One of my all time favourite Andy Stanley series is Comparison Trap. In it, Andy says the cure for envy is to celebrate what God has given others, and leverage what God has given you.

Bam.

That’s it.

Becoming More Grateful

While gratitude is complex, I know I do best when I

Drop the expectations but keep the standards.

Realize that more never delivers what it promises; and

Celebrate what God has given others, and leverage what God has given me.

How about you?

What helps you become more grateful? Because sometimes making a list of what you’re thankful for just isn’t enough.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 011: Overcoming Discouragement, Dissatisfaction and Overwhelm in Leadership – An Interview with Pete Wilson

Ever want to give up?

No matter how successful you are you, you still struggle.

Pete Wilson, lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville—a church plant that’s grown to over 5,000 on 5 campuses—talks about seasons in which he’s had to overcome discouragement, dissatisfaction and being overwhelmed as a leaders.

Pete’s insights can help any leader going through whatever season they’re facing.

Welcome to Episode 11 of the podcast.

AND, don’t miss my podcast contest! This is the last chance to enter. Cast your ballot today! 

Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter to win the grand prize: admission to the Orange Conference 2015, plus coffee with me and Jon Acuff.

Pete Wilson Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast

 

Guest Links: Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson at Cross Point Church 

Pete on Twitter

Pete on Facebook

Let Hope In: 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever by Pete Wilson

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing by Pete Wilson

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? by Andy Stanley

CNLP 002: How Perry Noble Hit Bottom While Pastoring One of America’s Largest Churches & How He Battled Back

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

It’s not uncommon to face fatigue and frustration when you hold a leadership position in church. Sometimes the path that you’re on may align with what God has in store, but there are ways you can keep your faith and sanity in check when you hit a rough patch.

  1. Abide in God. Sometimes you think, “Does God know? Does God care?” You look back and you see that God really has been for you. And when things don’t go your way, you assume that God wasn’t with you, but remember: He bears the fruit in your life and in your ministry.
  2. Find a way to commemorate the good seasons and physically mark them. When you think of the good times, you’ll say to yourself, “Ah, I remember that season! I remember what God did during that time!” If we don’t find ways to remember what God has done for us in the past, we’ll have a hard time trusting Him with our future. Those prompts remind us to be thankful for everything God does in your life, and prompt us to trust Him. He has been faithful in the past, and he will be faithful in the future.
  3. Create space in your life. In our culture, we give in to the idol of busyness. Pete says that one equates busyness with importance because one thinks that the busier they are, the more important they are, and that’s not really the case. The reality is, the busyness is an enemy of awareness. We stay so busy, that we become unaware of what God’s doing in our life, our soul and what really matters. So, if you want self awareness to increase, the busyness has to decrease. What you’ll find in creating space is time that’s not constantly hurried, you become more self aware and you hear God more clearly.

Quotes From Pete

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 Ron Edmondson, Jon Acuff, Rich Birch, Ted Cunningham, Tony Morgan, Craig Jutila, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via

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Got 60 Seconds? 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.

We’ve had over 100 reviews so far across all platform. Leave one and I may feature yours on my podcast page. I read every one and appreciate them all! Thank you for being so awesome.

Got a question?

Next Episode: Steve Barr And a Church For Disney

Next week’s guest is Steve Barr, Lead Pastor of Cast Member Church in Orlando, Florida, a church created to reach Disney cast members (employees).

Not only a great episode for Disneyphiles, but for any leader trying to figure out how to do a better job reaching specific targets and demographics.

Enter HERE to Win Coffee with Jon and Me, a Ticket to Orange Conference 2015 & More!

Hey…it’s the final week of the contest. The GRAND prize draw happens next Monday, December 1st.

When you enter by leaving a comment in the show notes of the blog, it’s also your ballot to win the grand prize.

The grand prize is a free ticket to The Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta in April of next year. Not only does it get you in for free, but you get a coffee with me and Jon Acuff backstage!

We are selecting the grand prize winner from all of the comments shared!

So…enter to win by answering this week’s question ­­– 

What has helped you overcome personal discouragement?

Scroll down, leave a comment.

Your comment is your ballot for this week’s prize AND the grand prize of a free ticket to Orange Conference 2015 and coffee with Jon Acuff and me. Go!

The Single Best Way to Lead Change in a Very Traditional, Old or Resistant Setting

I speak about change regularly. And you deal with change almost every week, if not every day.

The #1 question/conversation that comes up after one of my talks goes something like this:

Well, that’s great that you could lead change where you are. But you need to understand my context. My church is so (fill in the blanks here) old…traditional…resistant that I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I think it’s impossible. Is it?

I love that question.

One of the great consistencies in almost two decades of church leadership for me, is change.

We’ve changed everything, moving from three very traditional, dying mainline churches to a vibrant church that’s reaching unchurched people. And in between, everything has changed: our locations, our structure, our worship, our governance, our team and even our denominational affiliation.

So…is a church or organization ever too old, resistant or traditional to change?

My answer is that change is possible anywhere. That actually, it’s necessary. And at a bare minimum, change is worth the best shot you’ve got.

So is there a secret ingredient that can help you lead change in a traditional context far more effectively?

I think there is.

Before I share it, a few nuances for all of us.

change. resistance

First, Let’s Check Our Excuses

The grass is almost always greener on the other side of the leadership fence.

When it comes to change, most of us think it would be easier if we lead at another church or in another organization.

The reality is that ALL of us will struggle to lead change wherever we are.

As enthusiastic as we say we are about change, all of us resist it. That’s why you haven’t lost that final 10 pounds, haven’t cleaned out the hall closet nearly as often as you should, and haven’t started that blog you were going to launch/book you were going to write. All of that involves change, and we’re resistant.

Too many of us make too many excuses.

I wrote pretty directly about getting past your excuses in this post and again recently as one of the lessons from the collapse of Mars Hill Church.

So don’t think you’re ‘special’, that the ‘rules don’t apply’ to your church or that other people who successfully led change ‘had it easier’. They probably didn’t.

If you go in with an excuse mindset, you’ve set yourself up to fail.

So park your excuses if you want to lead change.

And For Sure, Leading Change Isn’t Just About Mastering “One Thing”

There isn’t just ‘one thing’ that will help you lead change. Leading change is complex.

In my book, Leading Change Without Losing It, I outline 5 strategies that can help you overcome the inevitable opposition you’ll face when you lead change (I also tell the story of how we changed in the book).

But it can be done. Ron Edmondson recently led a traditional, plateaued church from 1000 in attendance to over double that in less than two years. He outlines his approach here.

But there is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in almost 20 years of leading change. And by ‘helped me’ I don’t just mean helping me lead others, I mean it’s also helped me stay motivated myself.

What is it?

Focus On The Why

You likely know this already, but it’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Or to think you’ve said it once and don’t need to say it again.

Here’s the one thing that’s helped me more than anything else I’ve done in leading change in what started out as a very traditional setting, and can help you lead change in the most stubborn, resistant and traditional settings:

Focus on the why. Not on the what and the how.

There are really only three issues that come up around any leadership table.

What are going to do?

How are we going to do it?

Why are we doing it?

Most leaders intuitively focus on the what and the how, neglecting the why.

That’s the mistake. And here’s why that’s a bad idea.

What and how are inherently divisive.

Why unites people

People usually disagree on what. You like a certain style of music. Someone else likes another. You want to paint a room grey, someone else likes taupe. You prefer earlier services, someone else thinks evening is best. You think you should spend the money. Others disagree.

How is often just as divisive. As soon as the discuss starts, people start asking: So how are we going to pay for this? How are we going to get people on board? How are we sure this will work? How long will this take? 

That’s why effective leaders consistently refocus the conversation on why. Why are we proposing these changes?

Because this isn’t about us.

Because we imagine a church that our kids and grandkids want to come to.

Because we want to be a church our friends love to attend.

Because we want to be a place where people who don’t feel welcome today feel welcome tomorrow.

Because we love Christ and the world for which he died.

Because we have a passion for those who don’t yet know Christ.

Because our current methods aren’t optimally helping us accomplish our mission. 

It’s hard to disagree with statements like these, isn’t it?

Why appeals to the best in people.

Consequently, when you focus on why, you bring out the best in people.

After all, most people are part of your church because at some point, they decided to give their lives to Christ and be part of a cause that’s bigger than themselves. Your job is to remind them (and yourself) of this daily.

Leaders who relentlessly refocus on the why are always the most effective leaders.

If the entire group gets focused on the why, the what and the how have a way of working themselves out far more easily because why motivates.

When people agree on the why, the conversation starts to sound more like this:

Well I might not like it personally, but it is the most sensible approach. Let’s go for it.

We’ll find the money somewhere.

Let’s give it a try. I’ll put my objections aside.

I feel like there’s a future again!

Will you get some opposition, you bet? But, as I outline in my book, likely no more than 10% of people will be opposed and you can leverage a strategy for handling that.

And if a few people leave…let them go. They can always find another church they can go to. The people you’ll reach will likely far outweigh the people you lose.

What’s the single best way to navigate change in a traditional, old or very resistant setting? Focus on why far more than you focus on what and how. 

What are you learning about leading change in a traditional or resistant context?

Tell us by scrolling down and leaving a comment!

Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. The adventurous have perhaps added Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out, even podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do.

I’ve been to very large, high budget churches who have a digital presence everywhere and—for whatever reason—still welcome people like it was back in the day when the cassette ministry was booming.

I even caught myself doing this earlier this year.

The good news, the fix is quick simple and free for all of us.

Is My Glaring Omission Yours Too?

So what do you say when you welcome people to your church?

For years, our hosts (including me) have said something like:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there.

Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together. (Then we share one or two announcements we want everyone to know.)

See what I missed there?

Did you catch it?

I said ZERO (as in nothing at all) about our online presence.

Nothing about our social media. Nothing about our app. Zippo about our podcast. Nothing.

Yet 80% of the people (or more) are sitting there with their phones in their pocket.

During the week, we try to behave like it’s 2014. But Sunday morning, I was behaving like it was 1999.

This is the Opportunity You’re Missing

If it was actually 1999, people would have to drive to your church or to someone’s home to connect with someone else from the church.

Or they would have to buy (or pick up) a cassette or CD to listen to a message or series.

For the most part, in ministry you would show up in peoples’ lives occasionally at best.

Now, you can show up in a person’s life every time someone checks their phone courtesy of social media, email, your app, your podcast and more.

I realize that’s a double edged sword. There are definitely people you don’t want showing up in your life every day.

But I’m guessing there are some people you’d really appreciate hearing from regularly.

What if your church became one of them?

What if people were genuinely thankful to hear from you during the week?

See…you and I have moved from a world in which we had the ability to encourage people once or twice a week, to a world in which we can connect daily.

This isn’t just a promotional thing (don’t miss our big cheesy dinner Tuesday night!), it’s a discipleship thing.

Seriously, you can gain permission to speak into people’s spiritual journey regularly.

Publish helpful, useful content, and people will sign up to follow you. Don’t, and of course, they’ll unfollow you. The online world gives you instant feedback on whether you’re helping people or not. Just check your stats.

The Fix is So Simple

So don’t miss this simple fix.

If you’re publishing helpful, online content (and I realize we’re all growing in this and trying to figure out what that means), then just make sure you mention it Sunday morning.

Behave on Sunday morning like you can help someone during the week.

And the easiest way to help them, encourage them, inspire them and inform people during the week is via social media and your online presence.

So talk about that.

This is what we say now when we welcome people at Connexus:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there. Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together.

We’d love to stay connected with you this week. The easiest way to do that is by following us on social media. You’re welcome to take out your phones right now and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (we show the links on the screen as we say them). We also love hearing from you and this is great way to keep up the conversation.

Then, during the week…help people. Encourage, inspire and occasionally inform.

If you hand out a program or bulletin, make sure you include how to connect with you online.

And if you have a website, have a prominent place to follow your church on social media. People will connect with you 100x more on your social media platforms today than they ever will on your website.

Bottom line?

If you’ve got any online presence, talk about it on Sunday morning. Strangely, so many churches still don’t.

The change is free, easy, instant and everyone can do it. Just change what you say when you welcome people.

We’re All Learning

Want more? I’m not sure anyone has cracked the code on how to optimally use social media. But here are some resources that have helped me and some churches I like to follow online:

Cross Point Church

North Point Church 

Lifechurch.tv

New Spring Church

Elevation Church

Casey Graham and I also talked about how to connect with people using email marketing in Episode 3 of my leadership podcast.  (Subscribe for free here to hear feature length interviews with Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Casey Graham, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and more.)

Finally, nobody writes better stuff on church announcements than Rich Birch. Make sure you mine his site at Unseminary.com for posts like this that will change your announcements from a few minutes people tolerate to a few minutes people will anticipate.

So…what are you learning about connecting with people online during the week?

How do you highlight your social media on weekends?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 010: How to Rapidly Navigate Change in a Traditional Church Context – An Interview with Ron Edmondson

How you do you navigate change when your context is really…traditional? Sometimes the very idea can seem impossible.

In today’s interview, Ron Edmondson shares several important principles that have helped him and his team lead significant change at a plateaued traditional church and more than double attendance in under two years.

AND, don’t miss my podcast contest! Make sure you enter today. 

Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter this week’s prize—free autographed copy of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It  and be entered to win the grand prize: admission to the Orange Conference 2015, plus coffee with me and Jon Acuff.

Welcome to Episode 10 of the podcast.

Ron_Edmonson.jpg

Guest Links: Ron Edmondson

Immanuel Baptist Church

Ron’s blog

Ron on Twitter

Ron on Facebook

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Leading Change Without Losing It

Perry Noble at NewSpring Church

Plan B: What Do You Do When When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing by Pete Wilson

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Change is always uncomfortable. It can be messy and difficult, and that’s in any environment. There’s always a tension involved. Change is most successful when there is a relational trust involved.

  1. Lead into those relational strengths you already have. Many times you have relationships in church that are built, but you’re not necessarily using them because they may or may not be directly affected by the change. Those relationships actually may be able to help you through change because those people trust you, and they may have voice into the people who are directly affected.
  2. Embrace the current culture without erasing it. Respect the church’s past and understand its previous transformations. It may feel uncomfortable in the temporary, but in the bigger picture, understand that change is a very common thing, and it makes room for growth.
  3. Change the conversation in the community, within your church and among members. Get out into the streets and reach out to those outside the church walls. When someone experiences a critical life situation, it’s common for them to seek refuge in a church. Be active in providing that place where they can seek solace and redemption when they need to start over. If your church hosts a lot of activities that invite the community in, keep your messages persistent to draw attendance to Sunday services. Also, have conversations with active church members and encourage them to bring, not just invite, a friend. It’s one thing to send an e-mail asking someone to join you, but asking someone to meet you at church guarantees a better experience overall.

Quotes to Share from Ron

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, Rich Birch, Ted Cunningham, Tony Morgan, Craig Jutila, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via

iTunes

Stitcher

TuneIn Radio

Got 60 Seconds? 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.

We’ve had over 100 reviews so far across all platform. Leave one and I may feature yours on my podcast page. I read every one and appreciate them all! Thank you for being so awesome.

Got a question?

Next Episode: Pete Wilson

No matter how successful you are you, you still struggle. Pete Wilson, lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville—a church plant that’s grown to over 5000 on 5 campuses—talks about seasons in which he’s had to overcome discouragement, dissatisfaction and being overwhelmed as a leader. Pete’s insights can help keep any leader going through whatever season they’re facing.

Enter HERE to Win Coffee with Jon and Me, a Ticket to Orange Conference 2015 & More!

Win a prize every week with our first ever listener contest! When you enter by leaving a comment in the show notes of the blog, it’s also your ballot to win the grand prize. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Leading Change Without Losing It.

The grand prize, which will be drawn a few weeks from now, is a free ticket to The Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta in April of next year. Not only does it get you in for free, but you get a coffee with me and Jon Acuff backstage!

We are selecting the grand prize winner from all of the comments shared in two weeks so you can enter multiple times by participating each week. And each week one person will win the book of the week. This week’s prize is free autographed copy of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It.

So…enter to win by answering this week’s question ­­– 

What has been the biggest obstacle to change you’ve faced, and how have you overcome it?

Scroll down, leave a comment.

Your comment is your ballot for this week’s prize AND the grand prize of a  free ticket to Orange Conference 2015 and coffee with Jon and me. Go!

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

So you’d love to see more volunteers serve in your church or organization.

Who wouldn’t?

And yet when it come to volunteers, a surprising number of leaders struggle. Many leaders suffer from:

A chronic shortage

High turnover

Mediocre or poor morale

Ask most leaders why this is, and they can’t tell you.

And yet the reasons are not that difficult to figure out. Often you just need to shift perspectives.

questions volunteers askStart With This One

Here’s a simple place to start. If you’re always short on volunteers, ask yourself

Would you volunteer for you?

Answer honestly. The response can be very telling.

If the answer’s no (or you think the answer is yes, but almost everyone else would answer it for you differently), then the next step is to figure out why. Why aren’t people stepping up or sticking around?

That’s where the next 7 questions can help.

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks

Almost every volunteer at some point probably asks variations of these 7 questions, whether they ever say them out loud or not. If you’ve volunteered for someone else, you’ve probably asked them whether you realize it or not.

Develop great, healthy answers to these 7 questions, and volunteers are far more likely to stick around.

Better, yet, they’re likely to grow and flourish under your leadership.

1. Is this really about the mission?

Most people want to give themselves to a cause that’s bigger than themselves. In my view, no cause is greater or more worthy than the mission of the local church.

Yet many churches lose focus on the mission.

Volunteering ends up being about

Filling a slot

Meeting a need

Doing your duty

Or, in the worst case scenario, volunteering can become more about serving the ego of the leader than it does about serving Christ.

When you keep the true mission of the church or your organization central, people rally.    For example, in addition to leading a local church, I sit on the Board of Directors for an extremely well run local food bank. Their mission? A city in which no one is hungry. That’s inspiring.

When you lose focus on the mission, volunteers lose heart.

Every volunteer wants to give their time to something bigger than us or bigger than themselves. So give them that opportunity.

2. Are the relationships around here healthy?

No community should have better relationships than the local church.

After all, our faith is based on a saviour who reconciled the world to himself, forgiving our sin. What could we possibly hold against one another?

And yet often the local church has some of the most fractious, passive-aggressive relationships out there.

We have a saviour who came full of grace and truth, yet often church leaders will often swing to either extreme: all grace, so issues are never dealt with, or all truth, so people get hurt.

Even if you don’t lead a church (leaders from a variety of backgrounds read this blog), realize that many people love the mission of the organization they work for, they just can’t stand the personal politics and dysfunction.

One of the greatest gifts church leadership can give to a congregation is healthy relationships. So be healthy.

Not sure what that means?

Start by changing one thing. Talk to people you disagree with, not about them. That will change far more than you think.

Additionally, almost every organization has toxic people in it. Here’s a primer on how to spot and deal with toxic people.

3. Will serving help me grow spiritually?

It’s ironic that in many churches and organizations, people equate serving with burning out, not being renewed.

And yet Christian service should be a paradox of renewal: when we give our lives away, we find them. When we serve, we grow.

Part of growing is providing a healthy environment. Pay attention to the issues addressed by the other six questions and you’ll have an environment that favours growth.

But you also need to care for volunteers spiritually, or at least provide an environment in which spiritual growth flourishes.

Pray for them.

Pray with them.

Share your journey.

Encourage theirs.

Mentor your key leaders.

You can’t guarantee spiritual growth will happen, but you can provide the conditions in which it can easily happen.

4. Am I just a means to an end?

I wish I could get some of my early years of leadership back. As much as I would have denied it at the time, I think I naturally saw people as a means to an end.

The end was (and is) a great one: fulfilling the mission of Christ’s church.

But people matter. A lot.

Nobody likes feeling used, but that’s often how churches and other organizations treat people.

Care about them. Encourage them. Ask questions. Listen to their stories. Pray for them.

When you have a healthy, Christ-centered, energized team that knows they’re valued, the mission advances further and faster anyway.

 5. Will you help me develop the skills I need?

I have a friend who has visited a lot of churches and non-profits tell me recently that—as well intentioned as leaders are—the vast majority of organizations are, in his view, poorly run.

That’s a tragedy.

Why is the local Walmart better run than the local church?  Seriously. One is selling products that last a day, a month or a year. The other is brokering life change that lasts forever. The church should be the best in the world at recruiting, training and releasing people into ministry and their calling.

Many volunteers who come your way are highly capable people who just need a little training to know how to master the specific task you’re giving them.

A good heart just needs to be supplemented with a good skill set. Set aside an evening or a Saturday to properly train volunteers as they start serving, and then top up their training from time to time to help them get better at what they do.

6. Are you organized, or are you going to waste my time?

Disorganization is epidemic among church leaders and non-profits.

Too many volunteers show up to do their job only to discover that they also  have to do yours because once again, you’ve dropped some balls.

The more organized you are (on time, prepared, other holes plugged), the more your volunteers will be able to excel at what you’ve asked them to do.

As I first outlined in this post, disorganization is one of the six reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers. Here are 5 more.

7. So, am I signing up for life?

In many churches, serving is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

You’re a Christian for life, but that doesn’t mean you have to serve in one role for life. But many churches just assume people will.

What if you start putting a time line on every role? What if your conversation sounded more like:

Why don’t you try this for a season?

Can you serve with us for this semester/year?

People in this position typically serve for a 3 year term. You can try it out for a month before you commit to that term.

We definitely have some long term serving roles at Connexus (for example, we ask our high school small group leader to serve for four years), but we’re clear on the term from the outset.

Most other roles can easily be shortened to a few months to a year.

If you start providing end dates for roles, you’ll notice something surprising. Many people stay after their term has ended. They sign up for more.

Surprisingly, when you give volunteers an out, many lean in.

Want More?

In churches and non-profit world, leading and managing volunteers is one of the most important tasks you’ll have.

If you’re looking for more tangible resources, my friends at Volunteer Rocket will help take you in depth. It’s a year’s worth of resources to help you gain, train and retain volunteers that can help you completely change your volunteer culture. And they have a free seven day trial on now.

And you work in pre-school or children’s ministry, Live to Serve, with Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller, is a new practical, hands on training day for you as a leader that’s coming to four cities in 2015.

Hope this helps!

So what would you add to this list?

What questions do you ask when you volunteer somewhere? What other unarticulated questions do you think volunteers are asking?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

Why A Real Leader Never Says “It’s Not My Fault”

Despite our faith, Christian leaders don’t always have the healthiest practices.

It’s so easy to get defensive in leadership.

After all, all the problems no one else can solve land on your desk. What makes it really difficult is that sometimes

1. You weren’t involved in the project in the first place.

2. You wanted to take a different direction and got outvoted.

3. You didn’t even know about it until things blew up.

When any of these things happen, everything inside you wants to say “it’s not my fault.” Who doesn’t want to escape blame?

Sometimes saying it’s not my fault is more subtle than those four words. For example, you might be tempted to:

1. Say you didn’t know about it.

2. Quietly tell people you were against it.

3. Say “I saw that coming. Wish I had more input.”

Bottom line is, you’re communicating that you’re not responsible.

I’m not sure the urge to say “it’s not my fault” ever goes away, but as a leader, I’ve had to learn to dump the practice.

Here’s why.

blame in leadership

Do You See Yourself In This Picture?

Let’s dig deeper. Your desire to avoid blame expresses itself in a variety of ways:

1. Someone leaves your church. You say “Well, they never fit into the culture here anyway” or “I think we were his third church in the last five years.”  Translation:  It’s not my fault.

2. An event comes off poorly. You say “If we just had more help, it would have run smoothly.” Translation: It’s not my fault.

3. You’re scrambling to get a project done at the last minute. You say “Well, if I had the source material on time and if the printer hadn’t been down on ink I would have been done earlier.”  Translation: It’s not my fault.

4. Your church hasn’t grown in two years. You say “Very few churches are growing around here” or “If that big church hadn’t opened its new building, I’m sure we’d be growing.”  Translation: It’s not my fault.

Whether or not something is your fault is kind of beside the point: if you’re the leader, you’re actually responsible.

And while it’s not your fault every time, sometimes it is your fault. Be honest.

And even when it’s not directly your fault, you’re the leader so you’re responsible.

Don’t Let These Four Bad Things Happen

Here’s what’s at stake. When you fail to accept responsibility:

You never grow.

You create a culture of blame.

You diminish your team.

You model irresponsibility.

Even when it is a series of outside circumstances or a pattern beyond your control that influences the negative event, as a leader, you’re still responsible.

So how do you tackle those issues differently?  I mean there’s something inside you and something inside me that always wants to escape blame.

A Better Way

So what’s the better response then? Ignore the situation? Say it’s your fault when you really weren’t involved?

What do you do?

I think healthy leaders do three things. They

Assume responsibility

Empathize appropriately with the disappointment someone is expressing

Don’t blame events or people for the misfortune

So let’s re-imagine all four conversations:

1. Someone leaves your church.  You say, “I agree, it really is a shame that they left.”  Maybe you even offer to meet with them to learn. Then, even if they had ‘issues’, you walk away and try to figure out what your piece of the responsibility pie is in this situation and grow from it.

2. An event comes off poorly.  You say “Our team worked really hard. I’m proud of their efforts, but for sure, we have some learnings from this.  Thanks for that feedback.”  You get back to work…affirm what went right, and problem solve around how to do it differently next time.

3. You’re scrambling to get a project done at the last minute.  You say “I should have left more time for this.  Sorry to have let you down with a late delivery.”  You figure out how to manage your time better, allowing for unforseen delays.

4. Your church hasn’t grown in two years.  You say “I agree that I’d love our church to be growing again. I’m committed to helping us get there.”  Then you sit down with your best leaders and figure out what you need to do to better realize your mission and refocus your strategy.

Question for you:  which of the two cultures described above do you want to be a part of? The culture of blame or the culture of responsibility?

Exactly.  When you become a leader who accepts responsibility, your chances of being an organization that acts responsibly (and stops blaming) goes up significantly.

Accepting responsibility is a major step toward transformation.

What are you learning these days about accepting responsibility?

What are some of the effects of living in a culture that accepts responsibility versus one that shuns it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 009: Why Work Is Such a Struggle, Social Media and Narcissism — An Interview with Jon Acuff

Why is it that so many of us struggle with work? Does everyone have a dream job? And does social media and leadership make you narcissistic?

Just a few of the issues we touch on today as I interview New York Times Best selling author and social media expert Jon Acuff.

These are just a few of the issues we touch on today as I interview New York Times best-selling author and social media expert Jon Acuff.

AND, don’t miss my  podcast contest! Make sure you enter today. 

Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter this week’s prize—free autographed copies of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It AND Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like—and be entered to win the grand prize: admission to the Orange Conference 2015, plus coffee with me and Jon.

Welcome to Episode 9 of the podcast.

jon_acuff

Guest Links: Jon Acuff

Jon on Twitter

Jon on Facebook

Dreamers and Builders (Jon’s Facebook group)

StuffChristiansLike.net (Jon’s satirical blog on Christian culture)

Acuff.me (Jon’s blog on getting unstuck in your work)

Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt

Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job   

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck (Jon’s new book coming out April 7, 2015)

Preorder on Amazon

Preorder on Barnes & Noble

Preorder on Books-A-Million

A Free eBook from Jon Acuff

This week, Jon Acuff is giving away a free e-book to you.

Text “GRIT” to 38470 to get a digital copy of The Grit Decisions: How to Make a Decision Involving Grit

Links Mentioned in This Episode

The Orange Tour

Donald Miller

Andy Stanley

Orange (Reggie Joiner‘s next generation ministry)

Worldwide, Only 13% of employees are engaged at Work (2014 Gallup Poll)

Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” by Brett Dennen

Dave Ramsey

Check out the podcast archive for previous episodes with guests like Andy Stanley and Perry Noble: careynieuwhof.com/mypodcast

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

You don’t have to be miserable in your career, and what you’re passionate about is subject to change. As one seeks to evolve and explore their God-given talents, he may find himself feeling vulnerable to failure, but that’s OK! Jon talks to us about how to paddle through turbulent transitions.

1. Take responsibility for yourself. Jon said that he was a “serial quitter,” always bouncing from job to job when he got bored after being in a position for less than a year. After much self reflection, Jon realized that the common denominator among all of these “bad jobs” was him. The best-selling author says that when it comes to work, you control a lot more than you think, and you don’t control a lot more than you think. It’s about figuring out where that tension is. You may need to hustle on your attitude, not just your abilities.

2. Give yourself grace and freedom to explore your gift, and acknowledge that fear will come. So many times we ask ourselves, “How do I know what God wants me to do? How do I know what his will is for my life?” We expect God to give us a list of things to do, but He won’t do that. God wants us to rely on Him, to have a relationship with Him, not depend on a list. God is a lamp onto our path, not a lamp onto our mile. His mercies are new every morning, not every year. Sometimes we think that being afraid is failure, but it’s actually staying afraid that’s failure. Know that it’s going to be difficult, and that’s ok.

3. Discover your gift within community. Don’t try to go at it alone. We are often the worst judges at the things we are good at. The talent we have trouble recognizing is our own. When you grow up with a gift, and it comes natural to you, you assume that everyone can do it. You disrespect it. You need relationships that hold up a mirror to tell you, “You really come alive when you (gift goes here).” Community is a big part of figuring out the conversation of your calling versus trying to figure it out on your own. We need people; we need safe people. Join with the people experiencing some of the same things you are.

Quotes to Share from Jon

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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.

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Got a question?

Next Episode: Ron Edmondson

Think your church can’t change? Think again. Next week, Ron Edmondson, blogger and pastor, joins us to talk about how to navigate change in a church or organization with a long history.

Enter HERE to Win Coffee with Jon and Me & a Ticket to Orange Conference 2015 & More!

Win a prize every week with our first ever listener contest! When you enter by leaving a comment in the show notes of the blog, it’s also your ballot to win the grand prize. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Leading Change Without Losing It.

The grand prize, which will be drawn a few weeks from now, is a free ticket to The Orange Conference 2015 in Atlanta in April of next year. Not only does it get you in for free, but you get a coffee with me and Jon Acuff backstage!

We are selecting the grand prize winner from all of the comments shared over the next few weeks so you can enter multiple times by participating each week. And each week one person will win the book of the week. This week’s prize is free autographed copies of my book, Leading Change Without Losing It AND Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like.

So…enter to win by answering this week’s question ­­– 

What is one factor that has positively changed your attitude toward work?

Scroll down, leave a comment.

Your comment is your ballot for this week’s prize AND the grand prize of a  free ticket to Orange Conference 2015 and coffee with Jon and me. Go!

How To Know Whether You’re Trusting God…or Just Being Stupid

One of the most perplexing questions a Christian and, to be sure, a Christian leader will face when it comes to risk is this:

Am I trusting God, or am I simply being foolish?

The question isn’t as dumb as it seems.

There’s a fine line between faith and irresponsibility, and at times it’s almost impossible to see.

You know that big leadership risk you’re thinking about?

your new role

the massively daunting project

the big mission trip

that new campus

your start up

hiring a team

a new facility

the big move?

So…is it a step of faith, or is it just stupid?

Is it trust…or is it irresponsibility?

How would you know?

risk

Real Risk Lives on the Edge of Spectacular

Recently I had a call from a pastor friend who wanted to get his church out of a portable situation and into a new facility.

We had talked about the move several times, and on this particular day he was down the wire. His church had given at unbelievably sacrificial levels, but he was still at least 6 figures short of his goal. Yet they had a building deal in front of them that they could move on now before costs escalated beyond what they could afford.

He asked me what I thought. I asked more questions. The answers really didn’t help me get much clarity at all, despite my friend’s best intentions.

I asked him what other wise people he and I both knew were saying. He said everyone thought it was pushing the known limits.

I said I tended to agree.

We talked some more.

So what advice did I end up giving him?

I told him:

I think this will be spectacular. It will either be spectacularly wonderful or a spectacular failure. And I don’t know which.

That’s quite literally what I told him. (Bet you don’t want to call me for advice anymore….)

But that was the truth. I just didn’t know which. I told him I’d be watching with prayerful anticipation, which I did.

So what did my friend do?

He put out one last call for giving and people…responded.

They signed the deal. And recently I saw his amazing new facility that’s nearing completion.

I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. He was right. It looks like it was a spectacularly great decision for his congregation and all those they’ll reach in the coming years.

The Bible Sometimes Makes Things…Complicated

Ever really read the Bible?

So when you read it…what do you see? Faith or foolishness?

What was Abraham thinking when we set out with his entire family to go to a land he’d never been to, risking everything for a voice he thought he’d heard?

Who was Moses to think he could stand up to the most powerful king in the land, or to even attempt it after he had so much doubt about his calling?

The prophets were….not very typical suburban people. Ezekiel lay on his side for 390 days and all eating a specific diet cooked over excrement and played with a scale model of Jerusalem to show its pending destruction…wow!)

Imagine how Daniel felt being thrown into the lion’s den. Had he lived his life faithfully, or foolishly? He was about to find out.

Would you have advised your kids to do what Peter James and John did, leaving it all (including you, mom and dad!) to follow a man that had just burst onto the scene and some are starting to think is God?

How about Paul, who went from place to place, prison to prison, painfully misunderstood but absolutely committed to proclaiming this Jesus so many people rejected?

We say we want our kids to lead faithful lives, but do we even have a clue what that means?

None of our biblical heroes were exactly on the top college/stunning career track.

If you were advising any of these biblical figures, what would you have told them to do?

What is a Godly decision?

Is it always wise, prudent, restrained, responsible?
Or is it always risky, edgy, out-there, half-crazed?
Or neither?
Or both?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

Two Helpful Questions

For the record, I don’t believe there’s an easy way, five step, bullet proof way to resolve the tension between faith and foolishness.

Pivotal decision making should be navigated through prayer, through pouring over scripture (prayer and scripture should always be married) and through seeking advice of trusted, Christian mature people around you (click here for how to develop an inner circle like that). But sometimes that even lands in a place of uncertainty.

Here are two questions I’ve started asking myself to help when things aren’t clear:

1. Is ‘wisdom’ killing my trust in God?

2. Does my ‘trust’ in God disregard all wisdom?

Q 1:  Wisdom Killing My Trust?

I think the first question—is wisdom killing my trust in God—is more disturbing for me.

I’ve led for 20 years and learned a lot of lessons. I’m wiser than I was decades ago (hopefully that’s true for all of us who have led for a while).

And that can lead me to choose what I know, can see and can predict without honestly going for broke and trusting God wholeheartedly.

More over, the more successful you become—the more money you have, the more people you’ve reached, the more influence you have—the more conservative you tend to become. I’m not talking politics here, I’m simply saying you tend to not want to lose what you’ve got, so you naturally conserve more and risk less.

You know what’s underneath that? Fear.

Fear is clever. And fear can hide behind wisdom.

You can get to a certain season in leadership in which you no longer want to take risks in the name of being ‘wise’, ‘prudent’ or ‘ responsible.”

But the truth is you don’t want to rock the boat. If you examined your motives, you’d be honest and say you don’t want to lose what you’ve already gained. You simply don’t want to sacrifice what is for the sake of what could be.

You’d be forced to admit that having is more comforting than trusting.

And you’ve allowed ‘wisdom’ to become a substitute for trust.

And that’s bad.

That’s why young leaders are often better risk takers than seasoned leaders—they have less to lose so they risk more.

And that can lead some leaders to stop trusting God because ‘risk’ looks unwise.

When was the last time you had to trust God for the outcome of something? I mean really trust God?

If you can’t remember, it might be a sign you’ve let wisdom kill your trust in God.

Q 2: Does My Trust in God Disregard All Wisdom?

The opposite of course, can also be true. You have so much faith that you’re…well, reckless.

What people claim to be ‘trust’ can easily be:

their ego
their insecurity
a cruel disregard for other people
deep disobedience
irresponsibility

Just because you label it ‘faithful’ doesn’t mean it’s faithful.

If you are disregarding wisdom entirely and likely to hurt a bunch of people you’re likely not being faithful.

Trust still looks like Jesus…and it should have outcomes consistent with his character and with scripture.

If your decision makes you and the people you lead look nothing like Christ, it’s not from Christ.

The Final Call

So…you can go through all of these steps and still not be clear. You knew that, didn’t you?

So what happens if all of this (prayer, scripture, wise counsel and questions like the two questions above) doesn’t lead you to a conclusion?

Here’s what I do.

I just make a decision. So should you.

So many dreams have died because people were terrified to make the wrong decision. Don’t be.

Whatever decision you make, offer it up in faith. Make it faith. Dedicate the decision and the outcome to God, like Paul suggests in Romans 14:23.

A prayer like that can sound something like this:

God I”m doing this (or not doing this) because I trust you. If it’s wrong, I trust you will show me. If it’s right, I trust you will show me. I’m trusting you with the outcome.

Then go for it. With confidence and faith. Don’t hold back.

For as Augustine said:

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

So…what do you think? What are you learning?

What would you add to this discussion?

And maybe even tell me what big decision you’re weighing right now.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

How to Tell If You’re An Insecure Leader (5 Signs)

So…over the years, I’ve struggled with insecurity as a leader.

Maybe you have too.

Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity.

But there was a season where I didn’t really know I was insecure. And with most things leadership, knowledge is power. You can’t address a problem you’re unaware of.

In the meantime, how would you know whether insecurity occupies some real estate in your life?

insecure leaders

Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you’re an insecure leader:

1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others. 

We have lots to learn from other people, but insecure people aren’t driven so much by a desire to learn as they are to know whether they are better or worse than others. There is a world of difference between tracking with someone to grow and learn, and tracking other people or organizations to see how you stack up.  One is healthy, the other destructive.  As Andy Stanley says, there is no win in comparison.

2. Your sense of self-worth is driven by your latest results. 

Your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews and what others say about you.  I do monitor most of those things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.  God’s opinion of me doesn’t change with people’s opinion of me.  I need to learn from trends and learn from others, but I cannot let someone else determine my worth.  Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.

3. You can’t celebrate someone else’s success.

 This trait is a tell tale sign that you are insecure.  Why can’t you just give a compliment?  Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?  Life is actually not a zero sum game – at least not life in God’s Kingdom.  For you to win, someone else does not have to lose.  If you can’t compliment a competitor, why not?  If you can’t celebrate a colleague, is it because you are worried others might think they are better than you? You do not need to be the only one who is ‘great’ at something.

4. You make no room for people who are more gifted or competent than you.

This is where your personal traits inflicts direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).  The sign of a great leader is not that they are the most gifted or competent person in the organization.  The sign of a great leader is someone who can attract and keep people more gifted and competent than themselves.  The future will belong to people who can forge great alliances, make great partnerships and attract great people.

5. You need to be the final word on everything. 

Insecure people end up being controlling people.  You don’t need experts because you want to be the expert.  Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.  The truth is most of us are only great at one or two things, and even then, you became good at it with the help and advice of others.  When you value the counsel and input of others–especially on the things you’re best at–you embark on a path toward greater wisdom.

Those are some signs I’ve seen that mark insecurity in myself and in others.

In this post, I share some strategies that can really help getting past the struggle so many of us face.

How about you?  What have you noticed?

Scroll down and leave a comment!