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pastor's soul

Epidemic: On The Creeping Hollow Within a Pastor’s Soul

This Isn’t Why You Got Into It

You got into ministry because you loved Jesus and because you felt a call. Your motives, quite honestly, were about as pure as they come.

Yet, if you’re like most pastors or church leaders, you discover that perhaps the hardest aspect of your work in the church is to keep your personal faith in Christ vibrant and your heart open and supple. Those are probably two of the last things you ever expected to struggle with.

But there’s something that happens inside almost every church leader’s heart that makes it difficult to maintain a vibrant relationship with God, with people and even with yourself.

Strangely enough, it’s like a reversal of the great commandment sneaks up on us. The very thing Jesus told us to do—love God, our neighbours and ourselves—often proves to be the most difficult thing a church leader does.

It’s like there is a hollow in your soul that grows. And if left unchecked, it threatens to overtake you.

These days, the hollow feels like an epidemic. Pastor after pastor seems to struggle. Some exit early after it takes them out. And even those who don’t leave, or don’t suffer any kind of a moral failure before they go, still often feel the struggle.

pastor's soul

A Creeping Hollow

The problem with the hollow in your soul is that it creeps.

It never gallops. It rarely races. It just creeps.

So just like aging, you hardly see the changes in the mirror from day to day. But you see a picture of yourself from five years ago and realize you’re not quite the same anymore.

I could quote statistics here and point out how so many people who start in ministry don’t finish in ministry. I could point out how many burn out, fail or exit early, some famous, but many who go unnoticed except by the people who loved them.

But you know the statistics. And worse, in seasons, you’ve felt them.

The signs within you are subtle but real. You are angrier than you need to be. You sing lyrics on Sunday, but the world feels distant and disconnected from your emotions. Reading scripture feels like an item on a list you need to check.

What happened to the love? The joy? The hope?

Those are great questions.

Well, maybe this is what happened to your heart: it got hurt.

And it still hurts. You carried forward some wounds from childhood. We all do. You got picked on. Things weren’t always great at home.

Life adds to it. Your marriage isn’t quite as alive as you thought it would be. The kids are amazing, but they also add stress to everyday life.

And then there’s ministry…the people who left after you introduced some change and you thought it was no big deal. That’s what you told yourself. And maybe the first few didn’t hurt that badly. Or maybe they did, but you steeled up and decided it wasn’t going to hurt anymore.

Until it did.

And the friendships you tried to have, which got, well, weird, they bother you.

Because the people who are your community are also the people you work with, and they’re also the people you lead. And it’s just so confusing at times.

You thought when you were getting together for dinner that it was as friends, but then they started asking you about that initiative you proposed last week and suddenly your leader hat was back on. Whatever happened to friendship, you wonder? And suddenly, you feel more alone than you’ve felt in a long, long time.

And the hollow crept up on you. Again.

And Now, The Toll

It’s started to take a toll.

You find yourself getting angry at the kids. You watch yourself get overly upset at the board meeting, and you withdraw from your wife when she asks you what was wrong. Even your time with God is strained because you realize you’re just as equally angry with him as you are dependent on him.

It’s like ministry puts your character in a vice and squeezes it until you feel like you can’t stand it anymore.

Truthfully, you feel a bit duped. Had you known it would be like this, you’re not sure you would have signed up. But now what will you do? Especially if there’s an actual call on your life?

It feels a lot like prison, doesn’t it?

To quit abandons your calling, but to stay makes you feel like the hollow will deepen until you’re not sure what’s left of your soul. And simply praying more doesn’t seem to fix it.

Add to all of this the knowledge that the battle is not just natural, but spiritual, and things get even more complicated. You have a hard enough time handling yourself, but now there appears to be an enemy.

I’m not sure on this side of eternity we’ll ever quite figure out how the enemy works, but very few church leaders would admit to never feeling his activity or interference. At a minimum, he makes the already hard more difficult. At other times, he pounces, making us wonder what happened. We didn’t see it coming.

You can resist, but the resistance, in seasons, gets tiring. You withstand a few attacks, but the hollow creeps a little further, and you ask yourself, “Is this what I signed up for?”

And the answer is both, ‘no it’s not’, and ‘absolutely.’ This isn’t what we signed up for, but it absolutely is.

We have pictures in our minds that if we do everything right, leadership will be a day at the beach. But we soon discover that it’s not a day at the beach, it’s a day in a battle zone, and you are on the front lines.

You see Paul in prison and think, ‘I could never survive what he survived’ (or at least that’s what I think). But in reality, you are doing that. It’s the same…just different. You’re not in a physical prison…you’re in a prison of a different kind.

Sure, sometimes it’s a prison of your own design. And with enough confession, enough self-awareness, enough counselling and some good friends, you can find the key and get out.

But even then, the battle continues.

So What Do You Do?

So what do you do? Too many pastors and church leaders have no idea what to do.

So they stay and shrivel as the creeping hollow becomes more and more dominant. They settle for a shadow of what might have been.

Some quit. They’ll do anything with their lives that will help them stop the pain.

Some burn out.

A decade ago, the creeping hollow led me to burnout.

It was horrendous. I lived in a dark season for months on end. There was a time that was bleak enough I honestly didn’t know if the sun would rise again. My friends told me it would, but I wasn’t sure I could believe them.

I didn’t quit. I didn’t even take a sabbatical. I just told my elders and team that I was broken and I needed their prayers, their love and some help.

They were amazing. So was my wife, and my family. So were the people closest to me.

As I began to deal more healthily with what had felled me, life began to return to my soul and my body. It was slow at first, but within a year, I was at 80-90%.

It took a few more years to reach 100%. I knew I couldn’t go back to ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ was what got me in trouble in the first place.

But slowly, through more counselling, prayer, friendship, reading and encouragement, and a deep look into my soul, my soul got healthier. It was made new.

I believe the ancients called this the dark night of the soul, and they called the process of getting better ‘sanctification’.

A decade on the other side of burnout, I feel better than I ever have in my life. And I’m still in ministry. Do I have learning to do? Growing to do? Absolutely, until the day I die.

But my friends—and the Gospel—were right. It is possible to come back. To hope again, to believe again, and to love again. Deeply.

The hollow still creeps in from time to time. And no, it’s not always easy.

But knowing what it is and being able to call an enemy for what it is and battle back is tremendously helpful.

The sun did rise again. And God did heal. I’m not sure time heals these things, to be honest, but God does.

If you’re in the midst of the struggle right now, just know you’re not alone. At all.

Some Help

I hear from so many other leaders who feel the hollow creeping in, or who know they’re burning out, wanting me to tell them what they can do to fix it.

There are no easy answers. And, if there are, I certainly don’t hold them.

But there is a direction that can help. At least it helped me.

The best thing you can do is get some friends around you who know you, love you and can tell you the truth and help you. I am a strong believer in Christian counselling. You need someone with a tool kit to help you move through whatever issues are underneath and whatever reconstruction needs to happen.

But in the meantime, here are some resources that can get you started.

9 Signs You’re Burning Out in Leadership

How I Recovered From Burnout: 12 Keys to Getting Back

A Decade Later: My Top 10 Insights on Burnout

I also have done several podcast episodes with church leaders on burnout and rebuilding your life. And yes, one of them I link to is with Perry Noble who is currently recovering from burnout again. Pray for him as you listen. He’s a great man and God has an incredible future for him as he heals.

CNLP Episode 065: Louie Giglio on the Back Story of Passion, His Nervous Breakdown, and How He Came Back

CNLP Episode 097: Young and Burning Out: How Grant Vissers Crashed in Year One of Ministry But Found New Life

CNLP Episode 005: When Leadership Ruins Your Family: How to Live and Lead Differently With Craig Jutila

CNLP Episode 002: How Perry Noble Hit Rock Bottom While Pastoring One of American’s Biggest Churches and How He Battled Back

Whatever you’re going through… just know you’re not alone.

The hollow doesn’t have to stay hollow. God can—and will—fill it up again. But the struggle is definitely real.

What are you learning about the dynamics of ministry and how to stay healthy and alive? I’d love to hear from whatever you’re going through in the comments below.

kinds of passion

5 Kinds of Passion That Can Make or Break Your Leadership

Where’s your passion level these days?

If there’s one common characteristic of growing churches and their leaders these days, it’s passion.

Passionate leadership is so much more contagious than passionless leadership. And passion is a key characteristic of leaders who are making a big impact with millennials.

As I shared here, if you’re trying to reach the next generation and you had to choose between passionate leadership and money to improve your building, passion is the better choice by far. People respond to passion far more than they respond to a great building or cool environments.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish, because passion reveals the heart behind the ministry. Polish doesn’t always do this.

Of course, being passionate is one thing, but not every form of passion will resonate with your audience or with God. Not all kinds of passion are created equal.

The biggest differentiator between a passion that resonates and can be sustained over a long period of time, and the kind of passion that doesn’t resonate is the motive behind the passion.

Motive answers two questions:

Why are you passionate?

What are you actually passionate about?

Here are 5 kinds of passion that can make or break your leadership. Three of them will eventually break you (or at least stunt your potential and that of your organization). Two will make you.

The difference? The purer the motivation behind your passion, the better your passion will resonate with people and the better you’ll lead.


1.You’re passionate because you want to be better than someone else

This is one of the poorest motivations I can think of for being passionate in what you do, but the drive to compete against others runs deep in many leaders.

Let’s be honest, it’s not that difficult to beat the dying church down the street, but that’s hardly a great motive.

Leaders who have to be better than others suffer from at least four problems.

The first problem? It’s you. If you always have to be the star, you’ll always play in a small universe. In fact, you will intentionally keep the universe small because you’re too insecure to spend time with leaders and organizations who are bigger or brighter than you. Bad move on about a thousand levels.

Second, you’ll never surround yourself with truly great leaders. They’ll sniff out your insecurity and won’t stick around long.

Third, you will never realize your potential as a leader or, even more importantly, the potential of your church because your reference point is something bad, and not your true potential.

Finally, there’s a good chance someone better than you will come along. Then what are you going to do? (Other than sulk.)

2. You’re passionate because you’re the leader

Stepping into the lead of something for the first time or the thousandth time creates a kind of adrenaline, because, well, you’re leading it.

Some of that is very natural and some of it is very good.

But there’s a line you have to trace out. Sometimes the fact that you’re the leader can become the main motivation for your passion. And that’s trouble.

If you notice yourself always being the most passionate about something when you’re leading it, it could be a sign that your leadership is all about you.

And while people follow leaders, most people don’t actually follow a leader for the leader’s sake. You follow a leader for the mission’s sake (see below).

A great motive check for leaders is simply this: can you get excited about being a part of something that you’re not leading?

If you can’t, do some soul work. Ask God to help break your self-focus.

And go get involved in a project, team or cause that someone else is leading.

3. You’re passionate because it’s your idea

This is related to #2 above, but a bit different. Sometimes you’re not leading the initiative, but you’re excited about the innovation because it’s your idea that’s taking flight.

Again, it’s natural to be excited about your ideas and your leadership, but truly great leaders can get excited about other people’s ideas too.

In fact, the best leaders are always able to give voice to ideas they didn’t develop themselves.

The implications for your team are huge if you only fall in love with ideas you create.

If you want to demoralize your team, be passionate about your ideas and no one else’s. Eventually, you’ll have a demotivated team. Or no team.

4. You’re passionate about the mission

So what are some motivations that will make you—and not break you—as a leader?

Try this: let the mission drive your passion.

A mission inspires because it’s always bigger than any one person.

In the case of the church, the mission is both timeless and powerful. It’s the same mission that has been around 2000 years, and it’s always bigger than you, bigger than your congregation and bigger than your church.

Leaders who get passionate about the mission of the church always tend to have better churches.

5. Your passion is Christ-focused

I think the ultimate motivation for passion in a Christian leader is a Christ-focused passion.

I know that’s the answer everyone expects, but in this mixture of sin and grace that is all of us, Christ-focused leadership and passion is all-too-rare.

When you’re leading a church, a passion that is self-less and Christ-focused is utterly compelling. I think it’s a type of passion the next generation both wants and needs.

Christ-focused leadership is also radically counter-cultural. In a world (and sometimes in a church-world) utterly obsessed with self, pointing to Jesus and letting your motivation be from him is a breath of fresh leadership air. And it’s what our hearts long for most.

How do you know your passion is Christ-focused (and even Christ-fueled)?

Well, you’ve given up comparing yourself with others. You’ve gotten over yourself and your commitment to your team is bigger than your commitment to your own ideas. And while your motivation is for the mission, you realize that at the heart of the church’s mission is Jesus. He’s the only one who makes a difference, and the only one with any power. And he’s the motivation and fuel for what you do.

What Do You See?

I know this is a tough subject. We all struggle with mixed motivations, and we all have good days and bad days, good seasons and bad seasons.

But this is what I see when I look inside, and more and more I’m trying to weed out the impure motives and live for the mission and for Christ. And even as I write those words, I know I’ll get it wrong as often as I get it right.

What do you see as you lead?

What fuels your passion, for better or for worse?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

older church members

Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing

So how do you engage older church attendees… say people over age 50?

The question’s been around a long time. And—as most church leaders could tell you—it’s a bit of a loaded question.

It’s also a question I’m hearing again and again, particularly from churches that are doing a great job reaching young families. Some leaders want to know how to keep older members engaged, especially when a church is doing a great job reaching young families.

As someone who turned 50 last year and whose kids have moved out of the house and into university and life, I can tell you I’ve thought about this question both personally and from my vantage point as a church leader.

The default in many churches is simple: provide programming for over-50 adults that caters to their needs: potluck lunches, Bible studies and social gatherings for their demographic, and, of course, bus trips.

The purpose of this post is to ask one simple question.


As in really—this is as good as it gets for people moving into their prime and then into their senior years?

I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all.

If I have to spend the next thirty years taking bus trips, I want the first bus trip to be straight to heaven. There’s a much better way for 50+ adults to spend their time, influence and energy.

Let me explain.
older church members

Here are four reasons it’s time to kill the bus trip mentality far too many churches adopt for their over-50 attenders.

1. Life isn’t about serving you

What I struggle with most about the North American dream of how to spend life in your older years is this: it’s all about serving yourself, not others.

I’m not saying you can’t take a vacation or enjoy the life God has given you, but a thirty-year vacation? Seriously? How many rounds of golf can you play? How many beaches can you lie on? How many 4:30 buffets can you eat?

Too many churches have played into the trap of trying to cater to the needs of perfectly capable over-50 adults in their church, as though they were a demographic to be appeased, and not mobilized.

When church leaders cater to appeasing needs, they miss the mission potential of a generation.

You aren’t the mission. The mission is the mission.

You can fill your life with activity, or you can fill your life with purpose. It’s your choice. I’m choosing purpose.

2. The next generation wants and needs the older generation

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises to Gen Xers (that’s me), Boomers and Elders is that Millennials want to spend time with people older than themselves.

When I was 25, I didn’t want to spend time with anyone over 30. My goodness, has that changed. And I’m grateful for that.

In my work and in my leadership world, I’m surrounded by young team members. Almost everyone on my team is 15 to 30 years younger than me. And I love it. I learn and grow, and so do they.

I’m a big fan (and practitioner) of the Orange Strategy, which not only combines the influence of church leaders and families, but leverages the faith and wisdom of one generation to build into the next.

Biblical community is more nuanced and powerful than hipsters ministering to hipsters and seniors ministering to seniors. It’s about pairing up the generations to learn from each other, serve side by side and build into each other.

In our church, every generation serves alongside other generations. It keeps older adults young and helps make the young wise.

It does more than though. Serving together creates significance. I love the way Reggie Joiner puts it: people will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do.

By giving senior adults something significant to do—like being a small group leader for 5th grade boys, 12th grade girls, young married couples or single 20 somethings—they realize they have a contribution to make to the next generation.

Conversely, when a high school student serves at the food bank alongside a 60-year-old retired banker, they often do something more than serve food—they build a relationship, influencing one another and growing together in life and faith.

Kara Powell, in her research, found that having generations serve together in a way that builds relationships between those really helps teens and young adults find or keep their faith.

3. Not mobilizing older adults squanders resources

If church leaders simply pander to the consumer mindset that characterizes an older lifestyle (cruises, relaxation and rest), they deny a powerful reality that could be leveraged for the mission.

First, some workers actually don’t hit their peak earning years until their 50s and 60s. Church leaders should challenge people in that category to increase their standard of giving, not just their standard of living.

As you soon discover by talking to many successful business people, there’s an emptiness that comes with success and money. The reality is that the emptiness they feel in your soul is actually filled by giving, not getting.

Church leaders who are able to help people see that this is what they’re missing will be able to leverage resources to fund the next generation.

It’s more than money, though.

While foolishness plagues both old and young alike (some people don’t grow wiser in their senior years; they just grow older, there are decades of accumulated wisdom that get wasted if it’s not leveraged for the sake of others.

There can be a significant wisdom that’s lost if years get spent only in business, at the lake house, eating potluck lunches and taking trips.

As I already mentioned, Millennials love being around older adults and are wide open to insights, questions and conversations about faith and life. Leverage that dynamic, and you will see powerful transformation happen, not just in the life of younger people, but in the lives of older adults as well.

Fulfillment is found in giving, not getting.

The older I get, the more I prioritize being around young people. In my case, it’s mostly to ask questions, learn, and enjoy the relationship and insights. Being around the young keeps you young.

4. Sacrifice kills entitlement

Given the current decline in church attendance and engagement in North America and the West, passing the faith onto the next generation has never been more urgent.

In fact, I believe the greatest thing this generation can do is sacrifice to bring faith to the next generation.

This is not the time for older adults to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight given the fact that the flight is potentially headed for a crash landing.

What if this one generation actually just sacrificed for the sake of another? What if they gave up their preferences in music, style and taste so that others could come to know Christ?

What if they changed their methods and preferences to preserve the mission?

Leveraging time, wisdom, insight, relationship, money and influence—essentially, your life— for the sake of the young is the greatest legacy you can leave.

What Do You Think?

I realize this is a counter-cultural argument, but I think it’s an important one.

No generation in history has had more resources than the current generation over 50. Leveraging them for the sake of the next generation is perhaps the best thing we can do with them.

If you want to learn more about the kind of changes churches need to make to be relevant to the next generation, I wrote about it in Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The bottom line is this: a spirit of sacrifice is far more compelling than a spirit of entitlement. What am I entitled to as a person over 50? Nothing. But I’ve been blessed with much. It’s time to deploy what I’ve been given.

What are you learning about this?

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better communicator

5 Tips That Will Definitely Make You a Better Communicator

So you want to be a better communicator. You’re just not sure how to do that.

Sometimes the art and science of becoming better seems so complex, you’re not sure where to start.

After all, most people who hear you talk can’t give you meaningful feedback. They can tell you whether they liked it or not, but rarely can they tell you why they liked it. Even if you did a great job, you will have a hard time repeating it if you don’t understand what made it great.

That’s why it’s so critical to get feedback and coaching from other communicators. They can often explain why your talk worked or why it didn’t, just like a hitting coach in major league baseball can help a .300 hitter become a .310 hitter by offering far more helpful tips than a simple “Hey, just strike out less.”

So in this post, two things. First, below, I share some of my favourite communication tips (including a few I’ve never written about before) that can make a surprisingly big difference.

Second, this week there’s an opportunity to get 3 hours worth of FREE Preaching Coaching. It’s a $299 value but The Rocket Company is making a limited number of seats available at their online AMPLIFY Conference absolutely free.

You can join this virtual conference for free if you pre-register today (affiliate link).  Join Jeff Henderson as he interacts with Dr. Charles Stanley, Lysa TerKeurst, Matt Chandler, and Crawford Loritts.

It happens Wednesday, September 28 at 1:00 pm (EDT).

Want to know my favourite part of the event?

Jeff will select a few audience members (who have pre-registered) to evaluate their sermons LIVE on the air! Jeff has actually done that for me and the level of feedback he provides is astonishing and so helpful. So don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

So, let’s get better together.

Here are 5 simple tips that can definitely make you a better communicator before you give your next talk. They’ve definitely helped me.

better communicator1. Don’t memorize your talk, understand it

This may be my favourite speaking tip of all time. It just solves so many problems and reduces tension before you speak and while you speak.

I get asked all the time how I can speak for 45 minutes or even longer without looking at notes. I learned the secret when I was in seminary and asked Tom Long, a Princeton professor, how he did it.

He told me: Don’t memorize your talk; understand it.

He was right. Memorizing a talk is extremely difficult. Especially a longer talk. I personally find that trying to recall a memorized talk stilts your delivery because you can’t focus on the moment.

So instead of memorizing your talk, understand your talk.

Think about it. You do this intuitively when you talk to someone. For example, you don’t memorize inviting someone to dinner. (Okay, maybe you memorized a dinner invite once, when you were asking that girl you had a crush on out on a first date…And remember how awkward that was? Point made…)

No, if you’re inviting a friend to dinner, you just intuitively know that you need to see if they’re free, set up the details and maybe figure out where and when and who’s bringing what. Your conversation follows that flow.

Your talk is no different. It’s an introduction, a body, a conclusion and some transition points along the way. If you can grasp those main points, it’s amazingly easy to see how you will naturally fill the space in between with what you prepared.

You need to be familiar with your talk and you need to understand it, but you’ll never need to memorize it.

I wrote more on how to deliver a talk without using notes here.

2. Begin writing  your talk weeks in advance

It’s good to get ahead on your talk for so many reasons. But here’s one you may not have known.

Your brain actually has both long term and short term memory capacity.

If you write a talk shortly before you give it, the brain stores your talk in your short term memory. This is why, sometimes, if you’re a preacher who wrote Sunday’s message on a Thursday (or worse, on Saturday night!), it can feel so unfamiliar to you on Sunday.

Contrast that with a talk you’ve worked on weeks ago and maybe delivered recently. For some reason, you probably feel like you know that talk much better than the others you write just before delivery. The reason is simple: your brain stored that information in your long term memory because it’s been around longer.

Ideas stored in long term memory are just easier to recall.

I know it’s hard to get ahead, but try it. I’m working on a series I’m delivering two months from now. I’ve even got most of the bottom lines developed for the series and I’ll flesh out most of the messages in detail two to three weeks before I preach them. My guess is that by the time I deliver the first message, the series will already feel like an old friend.

Because I’m comfortable with it, the talk will immediately connect better with the audience. Your comfort with the subject may even appear to give you more authority on the subject, too, because your audience will assume you understand it well. They’ll realize you own it, because you do.

Speakers, this is also why conference talks you’ve repeated once or twice are so easy to recall: they’re stored in your long term memory.

By beginning every talk well in advance, you give every talk the opportunity to flourish into something better.

3. Include at least one self-deprecating story

If you want to build rapport with your audience, show them your weaknesses, not just your strengths.

I almost always try to find one mildly self-deprecating story in any talk I’m giving. (Fortunately, I seem to have an endless supply of self-deprecating moments from which to draw.)

This does two things. First, it put you on the same level as the audience, which is exactly where you want to be in a post-modern, post-Christian culture. Theologically, that’s a good thing, because you actually are on the same level as your audience. But in our post-modern, anti-authoritarian culture, the audience wants to know you’re one of them.

In a post-modern, post-Christian culture, your authority actually goes up, not down, when you display your vulnerability.

Second, the audience empathizes with you. They see themselves in you, and your honesty makes them quietly cheer for you.

Can you overshare? Yes. Can you under-share? Absolutely.

How do you know where the line is? If you’re not sure, I wrote this post on how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

The bottom line, though, is this: people may admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.

4. Pay attention to the logical flow of your talk

Every talk should take people on a logical journey. Even our stories are sequenced logically, with a beginning, middle and end. If you don’t believe it, try watching a movie with the scenes in random order. It will drive you crazy and the story, of course, will make no sense.

Our brains are hardwired to search for meaning, and logic brings order out of the chaos around us.

Your talk should have a beginning, middle and end, and each section should be logically and sequentially related.

For example, if you start your talk by describing a problem, then your talk should also offer the solution or at least a response to that problem. If it doesn’t, you’ll just annoy people.

Similarly, move the different sections of your talk through a logical grid. It should look something like this: If A, then B, then C and then, finally, D.

Here’s the logical flow of a recent message I gave.

A. Some of you don’t like Christians because you think most Christians are hypocrites.

B. In fact, aren’t some non-Christians actually better moral people than the Christians you know?

C. Well, you’re right. Most of us are hypocrites.  You have a moral standard. The question is: have you kept it?

D. But what if our personal morality isn’t the basis of Christian salvation? Christianity doesn’t make moral people better. It makes dead people live.

E. God is actually more critical of hypocrites than you are.

F. Fortunately he forgives, and challenges those ready to throw stones at others to drop them.

G. In light of God’s incredible mercy, it’s time to drop the stone.

Most messages typically have 3 to 7 key logical moves in them. This one had seven. Whatever it is, understanding the logical flow of your argument will help you understand your talk, which as we saw in Point 1 above, eliminates the need for memorization.

If you can’t figure out the logical flow of your talk as a communicator, your audience never will.

5. Speak with double your normal energy during delivery

One final quick tip: whenever you’re communicating, speak with double your normal energy.

It’s going to feel weird at first, but it’s vital.

Speaking in normal conversational tones when you have a microphone in your hand actually makes you sound boring. So double your energy.

Start by doubling your normal volume. I’m not talking about yelling. I’m talking about speaking more loudly and passionately.

Many speakers get freaked out by the microphone. Don’t. The sound person will turn you down when you project your voice.

A quick hack? Pretend you have no mic on and you’re speaking to the person at the back of the room. That will automatically make you a more compelling speaker.

Energetic speakers are always more compelling.

Any Tips?

What are your favourite tips on becoming a better speaker?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

And don’t forget to register for free for the Amply Event today.

recent exit

Some Thoughts About The Recent Exit of Two Megachurch Pastors

Like many of  you, I was deeply saddened to learn of Pete Wilson’s recent resignation as the Senior Pastor of Cross Point Church.

In Pete’s own words (you should read and watch them for yourself), he’s tired, broken and has led on empty for too long. So he’s stepping back.

This comes, of course, just a few months after the exit of Perry Noble from NewSpring.

If someone had told me in January of this year that both Pete and Perry would leave ministry this year under tough circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

Their departures have a lot of people talking and a lot of people thinking. Hopefully, it’s also got a lot of people praying.

It also has pastors reflecting.

I’ve been in conversations with people in church leadership. Many of us are asking what it means, and whether it can or will continue to happen to more of us.

Some writers and social media commentators have taken cheap shots. Man, that breaks my heart. I hope this post is the opposite of taking shots at anyone.

The mission of the church and its leaders is too important to do that.

I offer these few thoughts with the sincere hope this makes all of us a little better in the church. I also offer it out of a deep love and respect for Perry, Pete and all of you in church leadership.

exit megachurch

1. Pastors aren’t fake; the struggle is real

When a megachurch pastor resigns because he’s burned out, or because he’s experiencing personal problems, critics often rush in to claim that pastors are fake.

Look, most leaders who get into ministry aren’t fake.

It’s not that pastors are fake; it’s that the struggle is real.

I know Perry and Pete personally and I have only detected sincerity in both of them.

They started churches because they love Jesus. They led out of a love for Jesus. They sincerely wanted to reach people and did reach people who will actually be in heaven because of what happened.

I think I’m on firm ground to say they still love Jesus, very much.

Pete and Perry are the real deal. They’re not the plastic hair/shiny suit type of preacher. They got in this and stayed in this for the right reasons.

I’ve also felt the push and pull of ministry and life. And it almost took me under.

The struggle is real. After a decade in ministry, I burned out too. (Actually, Perry and I talk about burn out in this interview.)

By the sheer grace of God, I came back and am now in a place where, while I have struggles like anyone, I feel healthy and extremely grateful. (While this isn’t a universal prescription, here are 12 things that helped me come back from burnout.)

Often when you see a leader exit, it has nothing to do with whether that leader is sincere. It has everything to do with the fact that the struggles he or she is facing are real.

2. It’s hard to lead anything

It’s hard to lead anything, let alone a church. Or yourself.

Leaders face pressures non-leaders don’t always understand.

And leaders of large organizations face even more complex problems.

When you lead a large ministry or organization, it comes with problems and challenges 99% of the population never wakes up to most days.

Add to that the pressures of life, marriage, family, relationships and the task of leading yourself, and you have a recipe that requires tremendous personal stamina, humility, growth and development.

Sometimes critics say large churches are bad because they seem to generate outcomes like the ones we’ve seen recently.

The reality is that small church pastors also leave their ministries, experience burnout and suffer moral failure every day.

You just never hear about it because those stories don’t make the news. (Please note, neither the exit of Pete or Perry involves moral failure.)

Large churches aren’t inherently bad. Small churches aren’t inherently good.

Churches just have people in them. And that makes it…well, complex.

3. God loves and uses broken people

Are Perry and Pete broken?


And so am I.

So are you.

Too often we hold up perfect pictures of what our life is supposed to be like.

We all remember Eden somewhere in the back of our minds. It’s like we all know what it was like, and what it will be like in heaven.

But this isn’t Eden and this isn’t heaven. The war’s been won, but we’re living in a battlefield somewhere in between what was and what will be.

As a result, our lives are a complex mixture of sin and grace. Of brokenness and redemption.

This is true of pastors too.

We don’t have a direct line to God any more than you do. Our marriages aren’t ‘easier’ just because we’re in ministry (actually, you could argue that they’re harder). Our souls aren’t inherently more virtuous.

Pastors aren’t better people; they’re just called people. Called to the same calling to which non-pastors are called but in a specialized role.

Sometimes I wish people would actually read their bibles. We think we have to be perfect for God to use us.

But then there’s scripture…

Noah got drunk and partied naked after God delivered him and his family from death.

Moses came into ministry after he murdered someone.

Jacob raised perhaps the most dysfunctional family imaginable.

Judah slept with his daughter-in-law only because he mistook her for a prostitute.

David was a fantastic king. And then he saw Bathsheba.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived in Old Testament times but really struggled with sex. And God. And cynicism.

Elijah saw one of the most powerful displays of God’s power in history, and then promptly fell into a self-pitying depression.

Jonah ran away from God again, and again, and again.

Peter denied Jesus.

Thomas doubted even when he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

Paul was a little insecure (just read 2 Corinthians).

The early church as described in Corinthians is a study of dysfunction.

Early Christians stopped believing in the resurrection (Read 1 Corinthians 15).

The amazing part is this: God used it all.

I know we preach on this stuff but it’s like we don’t expect it to apply to us.

As my friend Reggie Joiner and I wrote a few years back, God doesn’t use perfect pictures. He uses broken people.

Why does God use broken people? Because those are pretty much the only people he has.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is an excuse to start sinning.

I want to stay faithful to my wife, be a compassionate father and be a healthier, better leader because I know it honours God to do that. Plus, life honestly goes better if you avoid those pitfalls.

But the fact that we are imperfect shouldn’t be a reason to say we can’t lead.

Clearly, there are activities and conditions that would and should take us out of ministry for a season or longer, but we have to get over this idea that leaders need to be perfect.

Christ is perfect. We get to partner with him.

If you’re thinking well, I’m just more righteous than all this, you need to know that puts you in great company. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought.

What Now?

I hope and pray the day will come where we see Perry and Pete back in strong and vibrant leadership in the local church. The story isn’t over for either of them. As Perry often famously said, if you’re still breathing, God’s not done with you.

I also hope and pray that honest, helpful dialogue will help many more of us avoid hitting the crisis point that tips us out of leadership, if even for a season.

This is not a ‘do these 5 things and it will bullet-proof your ministry’ kind of post. Because the issues are far more complex than that.

But as for me, I want to develop the practice of getting the help I need before I need it. Yesterday, I went back to my counsellor not because I have any burning issues, but because I want to see them before they start. As a close friend has told me, sometimes you need to go to a counsellor not because you have a bad marriage, but because you want a good one.

I want to stay close to my inner circle, telling them more things more often. Walking closely with people who love me enough to call me out and tell me the truth.

And finally, I want to stay even closer to God. It can be difficult to have an intimate relationship with God when you do his work every day (I know that’s hard to understand if you’re not in full-time ministry, but trust me, it is). So I’ll keep pressing closer knowing he loves me because I’m me, not because I lead.

I’m not saying my friends didn’t do any of these things or didn’t want to do them, I’m just saying I know that when I do them, I’m healthier.

Any thoughts on this, friends? Abusive or negative comments will be deleted. This isn’t the time or the place for that. Cynics, please go somewhere else.

But for those of us who love the church and its leaders, what are your thoughts and what has helped you when you’ve run into the challenges of life and leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

iPhone 7

Why I Returned My iPhone 7 An Hour After Ordering It

So I did a crazy thing recently that some of you do. I set my alarm for 2:55 a.m. EDT to make sure I was one of the first in line to pre-order the new iPhone 7 Plus (yes, I’m a Plus guy) on release day.

(And hang on…whether you’re an Apple fan, Android fan or whatever-fan, the point of this post is universal, I promise.)

It’s been 2 years since I upgraded, so I was excited to order a new phone. I did what it seems most people did: I ordered my new phone in the brand new JetBlack colour.

But literally less than an hour after I ordered it, I canceled my order.


Simple. I couldn’t get back to sleep easily so I decided to watch a user review of what I just bought (thanks, Jennifer McWilliams, for the link).

Apparently, even at the release event, the JetBlack phones were scratching and smudging. And they’re slippery. I’m a neat freak, so scratching, smudging and slipping are not my love language.

So I went back online and ordered the iPhone 7  in matte black, which apparently is much better. Plus it ships earlier (less demand). And then I promptly canceled my JetBlack order.

So what’s my point?

Here are three quick thoughts on user reviews that can make a difference for any leader.


 1. What USERS say about you trumps what YOU say about you

In today’s culture, what users say about you trumps what you say about you. Even if you’re Apple.

Think about it: when was the last time you bought anything significant without checking out user reviews first? For years now, I haven’t bought a TV, car, computer or frankly even a replacement water filter for my fridge without looking at the reviews before I buy.

Something that was absent from the market a decade ago now dominates consumer purchases and consumer thinking.

Leaders who understand this will always do better than leaders who don’t.

2. Direct access and interaction matters. A lot.

Again, as little as a decade ago, few of us had any interaction with major brands. At best you went to a clunky website and filled out a customer form and waited to hear back.

Social media changed all that.

While most of us don’t have direct access to companies as gigantic at Apple, you probably have interaction with your airline via social media. I’ve been surprised to hear back from CEOs of start-ups and executives at even mid-sized companies.

People expect it.

The point?

When you hear directly from an organization, you are far less likely to complain about the organization.

So… leaders, to what extent are you interacting on social media and other channels with your congregation or tribe?

Are you…

Asking questions?

Answering questions?

Expressing gratitude?

Encouraging people?


If you are, you’re building a much better experience for others.

Using social media for dialogue rather than monologue can really help sharpen the experience for both leaders and customers.

Plus, paying attention to user reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Google or other platforms is tremendously enlightening. Even if you don’t agree with what users are saying, you’ll learn from them.

3. Leaders who think like customers are better leaders

Hey, I realize churches don’t have customers—we have congregations. But as a leader of a church or organization, you live a good chunk of your life as a customer of other companies.

Leaders who think like customers are better leaders.

For example, even Apple admits its JetBlack phones will scratch and carry “micro-abrasions” (see footnote 1 way down at the bottom of the iPhone 7 page). Maybe the fears about scratched phones are way overblown. And clearly, all the other models do not have this problem. But why would you release a model that you know is going to bother a meaningful percentage of your customer base?

Releasing an expensive product that already has a built-in problem is a bit perplexing to me, but perhaps there are factors at work I don’t see or can’t realize.

I know that as a leader, it’s way too easy to think about what I’m passionate about as the leader of an organization rather than what the end-user experience is like.

If you really want to be a better leader, flip your viewpoint from your perspective to your end user’s perspective. Ask yourself:

What will it really be like to hear the message I’m writing on Sunday?

What’s it like to be ‘new’ at our church?

What will small group feel like if I’ve never in a small group before?

How will people react when they see this email I’m writing in their inbox?

What it’s like for a first-time single mom to hand her child off to a volunteer in our pre-school ministry?

It’s just so easy for leaders to only think through things from their point of view as a leader. But leaders who think like customers are always better leaders.

No, you don’t need to do everything your customers say (that’s not leadership), but it does mean you should listen to your customers.

If you understand your customers, you’ll be the best able to serve them.

What are you learning about user reviews and listening to customers?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

talking about money in church

7 Fresh Ways To Get Over Your Fear of Talking About Money In Church

So let me guess, every time you need to talk about money in church, you wince.

And you’re the leader.

I know, because I’ve been there.

If you’re going to be effective in ministry, you have to become comfortable talking about money.

Yet few church leaders I know are.

Here’s why.

When you talk about money, it’s like you’re setting yourself up to be shot at. You almost always take bullets when you talk about money, even when you speak about it as earnestly, biblically and honestly as you know how.

As a result, many pastors avoid the subject and only talk about it if there’s a financial crisis looming for the church.

That’s the biggest mistake you can make. It sets no one up to win: not the church, not your people, and not you as a leader.

But you have to talk about it. Why? Because there’s so much at stake if you don’t.

Pastors who refuse to talk about money can ultimately leave both their churches and their people broke.

The message we continually hear from the culture around us leads people to overextension on things that matter little in the end and can also result in dissolving families (see below).


It’s Not Hopeless…Really

I know what it’s like to lead with very meager resources as well as what it’s like to lead with more.

When I began in ministry, three small churches called me to be their pastor.

The annual budget for one of the churches was $4,000. No, I’m not kidding. No, there are no missing zeros. Added together, the budget of all three churches was less than $50,000 for the year. The doors were almost closing.

But seeing resources freed up for ministry has made a big difference. More than 2,500 people now call our church home, and we see over 1,000 of them every weekend. Today our church is vibrant, healthy and alive (and I’m so thankful for that).

What’s even better is how we’ve seen people who attend our church become financially healthy in their personal life and as that’s happened, millions of dollars have been freed for ministry.

But to get there, you have to get over your fear of talking about money.

7 Fresh Ways To Get Over Your Fear of Talking About Money In Church

One of the best ways to talk about money is to realize why you need to talk about it. And the why will lead you to the how…giving you content for your messages and for other strategies as you connect with people.

Here are 7 fresh ways to get over your fear of talking about money in church:

1. Realize the people you lead talk about money every day

Think about it. Do you know a person who doesn’t talk about money in some way every day?

There’s not a family in your church or community that doesn’t have some kind of daily dialogue about money.

People talk about it, argue about it, and try to make their plans around it.

Almost everyone in your church and community thinks about money daily and talks about it daily. They may even struggle with it daily. It’s just that few people step up to help them with it.

As a result, people talk about money in a theological vacuum because few church leaders will talk about it.

So start talking about it.

2. View talking about money as pastoral care

Could it be that your reluctance to talk about money is costing people their marriages?

Reports continue to show that money issues are a top reason families break up.

In a culture of plenty burdened by massive personal debt and a lack of fulfilment around money, families are looking for hope and help.

If the church won’t help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will?

The scripture is packed with practical advice and missional claim on personal finances that can literally change people’s lives.

Why hold out on people? Who will bring them help or hope if you don’t?

3. Help people plan their financial future, not just yours

Addressing money in your church shouldn’t just be about your needs in ministry.

Too many leaders only think about their church’s need when it comes to money. Wise leaders think about their congregation’s needs when it comes to money.

If you help people plan their personal financial future, you’ll have a better future as a church.

The tagline we came up with a few years ago is that we want people to live with margin and live on mission.

I started telling people I wanted them to pay cash for their next vacation, to save for their children’s education, to save for retirement, to create an emergency fund and to live generously.

I think people were shocked that a preacher a) wanted them to take a vacation, b) wanted them to pay cash for it,  c) offered a program to help them realize their financial goals and d) didn’t expect all their money to go to the church.

One of the best things we’ve done in the last 5 years has been taking hundreds of adults and students through the Financial Learning Experience. It’s a two-hour forum designed to help people master the basics of financial planning and realize their dreams. There are follow up small groups and individual coaching you can also offer.

My joy as a leader is to see hundreds of people paying cash for their vacations, saving for their kids’ education, saving for retirement AND giving generously to the Kingdom.

But that only happens if you want something FOR people, not just something FROM them.

4. Understand you’re slaying a giant idol

If the world (and church) have an idol, money is a prime candidate.

So know up front you’re going to get push back when you address it. But if you help people with their finances as a ministry and steward the money that’s received appropriately, you will help break the power of an idol in our culture and church.

When you attack an idol, prepare for a counter-attack.

It’s easier not to fall victim to the criticism or internal battles that the attack brings when you realize the attack is coming.

5. Tap into the desire most people have to be generous

Most people want to be generous. They just need help with how.

When you can’t make your minimum credit card payments, even a $20 donation to the food bank seems out of reach.

When you help people get their finances in order, generosity can be unleashed. And more people want to be generous than you think. They just need help getting there.

6. Your vision and stewardship must be worth the sacrifice people make

When people give, you receive a measure of trust from both people and from God.

You need to steward and manage the money well. Things like a third party independent annual audit (which is expensive, but worth it) should be the norm.

And your vision and mission should be compelling and up to the challenge.

People don’t give generously to uninspiring or poorly stewarded visions.

7. Unchurched people are more open to conversations about money than you realize

Because most of our growth comes from unchurched people, I hear this all the time: “But what about unchurched people? Don’t they cringe when churches talk about money?”

Sure, sometimes. But see points 1-3 above. Surprisingly, unchurched people love to talk about money when they realize you’re ready to help them.

In my experience, the people who raise the most fuss when it comes to talking about money in the church are long-time church attenders who don’t give much.

I can’t prove that statistically, but it resonates with my experience and intuition.

Don’t let the people who never give ruin your ministry to people who want to give.

Want More?

Nothing has helped us more with raising money for day to day ministry than the coaching and strategy offered by Giving Rocket (affiliate link).

Giving Rocket actually has a 14 day free trial on its core program. You can sign up for it here.

So…what issues are you encountering in the conversation around money in your church? Or, what’s helped you have the conversation in your church?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

executive assistant

How NOT to Sabotage Your Team

Today’s post is a guest post by Tricia Sciortino, president of eaHELP, one of our partners on the blog and on my Leadership Podcast

By Tricia Sciortino

As pastors, directors of special ministries, worship leaders, educators and administrators in the church, we know the call to serve is paramount. You strive to grow, nurture, provide for and support our communities and congregations.

But you also must do so in ways that demonstrate stewardship and competent leadership.

People believe in you. They depend on you. And your congregants are relying and counting on your steady hand to direct the organization forward. But with so many moving pieces, so many competing and continuous demands, it can become a challenge to manage everything.

It’s not uncommon, though, for leaders to experience some growing pains when they first hire a virtual assistant. They’re so accustomed to managing everything, to being hands-on with very routine tasks, that it can be hard to let go. But as the president of eaHELP, I’ve learned how pastoral and ministerial clients can avoid unintentionally sabotaging their virtual executive assistant. Sometimes this can happen quite accidentally, despite the best-laid plans or good intentions.

executive assistant

We are only human, after all, and there’s only so much an individual can – or should – do.

There is the day-to-day administration, the calendars and scheduling, the meetings and reporting, and even the special projects, new events and even just the process of getting the word out as you seek to grow and bring others to Christ.

There are weekly preparations, daily commitments and the longer-term planning of what you hope, aim and plan to do in the future.

At eaHELP, we help many leaders and ministers just like you who have recognized they would benefit from some extra support.

In fact, we specialize in matching virtual administrative and executive assistants with leaders and organizations of many types, and we’ve honed in on the unique needs of the church. We have a team of more than 400 home-based administrative assistants who partner with people like you to make life less hectic, projects less monumental and general operations more efficient.

When you have a dedicated expert to manage schedules, arrange travel, update databases, conduct outreach, respond to emails and perform bookkeeping, imagine how much easier your life becomes.

Here are some insights to help you make the most of the dedicated help which companies like ours provides. Following these tips can ensure a satisfying, productive experience for all involved – for you as the leader, for the assistant as your administrative partner and for the service provider who matches both sides of the equation.

Don’t Just Task – Empower

Somewhere along the way, the perception of what executive assistants really offer became too simplistic. Yes, administrative assistants can answer calls and make copies, but the reality is that they do much more than that. Sometimes that work happens behind the scenes and is not always within full view.

Think of a quality executive assistant as the mystery ingredient in an incredible recipe; it’s the one element that brings it all together, but you may not even see it, smell it or taste it.

Plus, executive assistants often bring a level of disciplinary expertise that can be valuable to your efforts. These insights and knowledge could pertain to member outreach, operational organization, research and reporting, or marketing and media.

Churches always have reports to produce, and social media is more of a must than an “if” or “when” these days. Emerging, developing and established ministries alike often have complex calendars to manage, and getting the word out is a consistent concern of churches as they grow. Seek and solicit your assistant’s input where it counts, and you’ll cultivate a professional “right hand” who can help you more than you ever thought possible.

Don’t Infer – Express

Based on their aptitude and experience, executive assistants are often pros in proactively identifying needs and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a leader, can go work on other things and leave your assistant operating in isolation. An avoidable error in the administrative assistant-client relationship is a gulf in clarifying needs and expectations.

Even if your assistant is performing according to expectations, it never hurts to offer constructive feedback. Be sure to volunteer your guidance about her ideas on how to execute an existing or new task.

Offer specifics about key contacts she may interact with, bringing beneficial context to her conversations and interactions. Executive assistants need to hear from you to ensure you’re not only singing from the same hymnal but that you are synced to same song and verse.

Don’t Conceal Your Quirks

Quite naturally, over time your virtual assistant learns more about you as the client, picking up on your verbal cues and gestures. Everyone has quirks – let’s call them pet peeves or preferences. If we take just a few minutes to do some self-reflection, each of us could probably name at least three work-related deal breakers of our own based on personal ideals or specific ways of being.

On occasion, these unknown quirks can emerge at inopportune times. For example, let’s say you ask your virtual assistant to create a new report about a developing program. She creates the report, but as you review it, you see that it’s not color-coded in a way you would prefer and even features a shade you absolutely never use in documents. There’s nothing wrong with the report itself; however, your preferences represent an affinity that she could not have known unless you informed her.

Miscommunication, bruised feelings and instances like these can be minimized through honest, clear conversations and fuller disclosure on the front end.

Don’t Be a Closed Book

Of course, you must establish and preserve professional boundaries at all times with your executive assistant. But that doesn’t mean you should erect a fortress between you and your administrative support partner.

The truth is that our private life does affect work life. You don’t have to completely “spill the beans,” but it may strengthen your virtual assistant’s performance and perspective if she knows about your kids’ demanding schedule of extracurricular activities, that you’re traveling overseas with your spouse for three weeks in the spring or that you have an upcoming medical procedure that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.

Want More?

Communication, continuity and consistency are some key ingredients in the successful recipe of an executive assistant-leader relationship. When both sides understand each other and are vested in the benefits of an effectively shared partnership, what materializes can be absolutely game changing for you, your ministry and your highest calling.

Trust me. We see the results every day.

Want more information on getting help with your team? Contact us free of charge.

In the meantime, what have you found helpful in working with an EA? Scroll down and leave a comment.

top leaders

5 Things Every Leader Should Tell Their Top Leaders

If you could only tell your top leaders a few things, what would you tell them?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one I was asked recently as I spoke to the senior leadership team and staff at Next Level Church in Florida.

It was a good challenge to distill years of leadership experience, mistakes and insights into five key learnings.

Here’s what I came up with.

I’d love for you to add your suggestions and top learnings to the mix in the comments below.


1. Your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you

As a young leader, I was 100% convinced that competency was the key to effectiveness in leadership.

I no longer believe that’s true.

Sure, competency is important. Incompetence doesn’t get you or your mission very far.

But competency isn’t the ceiling many leaders hit. Character is.

Why is that?

Well, all of us can name highly gifted pastors, politicians, athletes and other public figures who failed not because they weren’t competent, but because they weren’t up for the job morally. An addiction, an affair, embezzlement or honestly sometimes just being a jerk caused them to lose their job or lose their influence.

This is why I’ve come to believe your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you.

So what do you need to do to ensure you character doesn’t undermine your talent?

Work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.

I know that’s difficult to do but do it.

Cultivate a daily habit of prayer and scripture reading. Go see a counsellor before you need to. Have great people around you who have permission to tell you the truth. Do the soul work you need to do to animate your other work.

It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted you are if you disqualify yourself from leadership.

2. Abandon balance and embrace passion

Almost everyone in leadership would advise you to lead a balanced life.

I’m not so sure.

What if that’s the wrong goal?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone should work 80 hours a week.

But here’s my struggle.

I think we find many circles in our culture where balance has become a synonym for mediocrity. Don’t work too hard. Don’t be intentional about your time. Just be balanced.

Here’s what I’ve seen.

Most people who accomplish significant things aren’t balanced people. They’re passionate people.

They are passionate about:

Their job.

Their family.

Their hobby.

In fact, they’re often even passionate about their nutrition and their rest.

They never see work as a job…they see it as a calling. As a quest. As a mission.

They can’t wait to get up in the morning and attack the day.

When they engage relationally, they’re fully present.

When they’re with their family, they’re with their family. They give everything they have to everything that’s important to them.

So do a variety of things (work, play, family), but allocate your energy so you can do everything you do, including rest and relaxation, with passion.

I love what John Wesley said:

“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

I never want to lose my passion. In fact, I’m praying that it intensifies as I grow older in everything I pursue.

Don’t let balance become a synonym for mediocrity. Balance is a retreat. Passion is an advance. So passionately pursue all you do.

If you’re intrigued by how to better manage your time, energy and priorities, I’m launching a new resource this fall called the High Impact Leader. It’s a 10-unit video course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

If you want to get on the inside track of the launch of the High Impact Leader, sign up here.

3. Pursue your health

So many leaders struggle with staying healthy in leadership… spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally and financially.

One way to look at leadership is to see it as a series of deposits and withdrawals.

All day long as a leader, people and the mission make a series of withdrawals from you: someone needs to meet with you, another person needs counselling, a third needs advice, a fourth wants to get that report done asap.

If you think of your life as a leader like a bank account, the problem eventually becomes the ratio of deposits to withdrawals. Over the long run, if you make more withdrawals than deposits, you go bankrupt.

That’s exactly what happens to far too many leaders.

The withdrawals that happen to you in life and leadership are inevitable. You can manage them well or poorly (which is something we’ll help you master in the High Impact Leader course).

Here’s the thing, though: the withdrawals never go away.

It’s your responsibility to make the deposits.

This means applying the spiritual disciplines, physical disciplines, financial disciplines and the discipline to get the help you need to resolve your emotional and personal issues.

Here’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself and I would love every top leader to ask themselves daily: am I living today in a way that will help me thrive tomorrow? Spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, and financially?

If not, why not?

Since I started asking that question, I’m far healthier. It’s a recipe that works. Start using it.

4. Understand that attendance no longer drives engagement, engagement drives attendance

It’s interesting to me that we didn’t get to a strategy insight until the fourth insight. The top three pieces of advice are all heart and character issues, which is exactly as it should be.

But in the church, the strategy you apply also matters. So here we go.

As North American culture becomes more and more post-Christian, declining attendance has become a universal phenomenon (here are 10 reasons why that’s happening).

The current approach to church has largely been driven by getting people to attend. The idea is this: get them in the door and hopefully at some point, they’ll engage in the mission.

But in an age where fewer and fewer people are motivated to attend church at all, that’s a bad strategy.

Instead, if you want to see your church grow, stop trying to attract people and start working on engaging people.

Why? Because engaged people attend.

The more engaged you are in the mission, the more likely you’ll want to be part of the church.

In the future church, only the engaged will attend. So do what you can to drive engagement.

Want more? Here are 7 ways to drive engagement.

5.  Play favourites

My guess is you spend 80% of your time trying to help your struggling leaders get better.

They’re producing maybe 20% of your results, but you’re devoting 80% of your time trying to motivate them, get them to show up on time and get them to do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

What if that’s a colossal mistake?

What if you spent 80% of your time with the leaders who give you 80% of your organization’s results?

That’s what the best leaders do: they spend 80% of their time with the people who give them 80% of their results.

What do you do with the bottom 20%? Let them go or let them figure it out on their own. Or limit your involvement to 20% of your time.

Your best leaders get better with time and attention. Poor leaders never do.

So try it…spend 80% of your time on the people that produce 80% of your results.

I know… I know… you’re pushing back. I get that. You think this isn’t a Christian thing to do. I’m not sure sure you’re right.

You’re afraid that playing favourites isn’t biblical.

Just the opposite. Not playing favorites makes you unfaithful.

I know, I know….what?????

Moses tried to treat everyone the same, and it almost killed him and wore out the people he led (just read Exodus 18).

The solution? Moses had to learn not to treat everyone the same.

He appointed leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The result was that the people’s needs were met and Moses got to lead for the rest of his life. His leadership (finally) scaled.

If you start to look for it as you read, you’ll see organizational principles throughout Scripture (how did Israel become a great nation after all?)

For example, even in the New Testament, Jesus and early Christian leaders didn’t treat everyone alike.

Jesus actually walked away from people who needed to be healed in order to get food and rest.

Jesus organized his disciples into circles according to potential impact…groups of 70, 12, 3 (Peter, James and John) and 1 (Peter) and intentionally spent the most time with those inner circles.

The early church reorganized and mmoved their key teachers and preachers away from daily tasks and appointed new leaders, which fuelled new growth.

Loving everyone the same does not mean treating everyone the same way.

So if you want to be more biblically faithful, start treating different people differently.

What do you think?

Those are my top 5. What are yours?

Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

And if you want more, I outlined 7 critical issues every church needs to deal with in my latest book.

bad day

7 Simple but Effective Strategies to Get You Through a Bad Day

Ever have a bad day?

Of course you do. You’re human.

As much as you don’t like days like that (does anybody?) they’re inevitable in leadership.

Someone sends you an email that sets you off.

A crisis hijacks the day you were going to spend getting a project done.

Unexpected bad news pours in.

You experience conflict with a teammate.

You simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

It happens.

When I began in leadership, days like that often cost me more deeply than they had to.

I would sometimes say things I regretted.

I occasionally took my frustrations out on people around me.

My family suffered if I came home and allowed my mood to ruin the atmosphere.

In fact, when I look around me, I see too many leaders who let bad days undermine their leadership again and again.

When leaders allow their moods to ricochet through the organization, a bad day can lead to several bad days for others. It can foster conflict among team members. And it can jeopardize their home life.

So how do you deal with a bad day?

Here are seven strategies I’ve adopted that can help with a bad day.


1. Ask yourself: What would an emotionally intelligent person do? 

Emotional intelligence is all about developing a self-awareness of how your attitudes and actions impact others and leveraging that to further the team and others.

As Daniel Goleman points out in his classic book, Emotional Intelligence, emotionally intelligent people rarely let their state of mind bring others down. They’ve developed behaviours that compensate for their emotional state so they don’t drag other people down with them.

So quite literally, on my worst day, I ask myself “What would an emotionally intelligent person do?”

I imagine what they would do, then I do everything I can to do it.

Try it. It works.

2. Don’t act on your emotions

Emotionally intelligent people don’t act on their negative emotions.

Those who lack self-awareness in the moment will.

It’s a mistake.

You’ll say things you regret. You’ll do things you’ll wish you could take back.

So when you’re having a bad day, don’t act on your emotions. Don’t do anything stupid.

Don’t let anyone ‘have it’ because you’re in a bad mood.

If the worst thing that happens on a bad day is that you have some angry thoughts, at least they remained thoughts and refrained from becoming actions.

3. Don’t make any significant decisions

Actions are one thing. Decisions are another.

The worst time to make decisions is when you’re upset or feeling down. Your emotions will lead you to decide things you’ll regret.

So just decide not to decide anything that day.  

Here’s the rule I’ve adopted in life in and leadership when I’m in a bad space: Don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions.

Think about how many stupid decisions you could have avoided. The vows you might have never made. The bridges that would still be intact and burn-free.

Don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions.

4. Divert to accomplish a short term win

Chances are good that you can accomplish something positive, even if you don’t feel like it. Do something mundane like cleaning out your inbox. Organize a drawer. Get some routine work done.

While your head may not be in the right space to slay any big dragons, divert yourself to something manageable so you can find at least one or two short term wins.

You still need to earn your keep on a bad day.

If you’re still struggling, go for a walk or a run or a quick bike ride. The physical change can provoke a mental shift that can also rescue your day.

5. Confide and pray

You should tell somebody about your bad day. But tell the right person. Your emotions will probably lead you to want to tell the wrong person.

Talk to a close friend or your spouse (appropriately). Bottom line: talk to someone who is willing to help you and pray for you.

And pray about it yourself.

My prayer on bad days sometimes is as simple as “God, this is your church. You got me into this. Get me through this. Help me to see my part in all this.” That’s a decent prayer to pray on a bad day.

Bad days get worse on their own. They get better with friends.

6. Call it a day

If you’re having a really bad day, call it a day, early.

Staring at a blinking cursor doesn’t help anybody.

You may have to put a few more hours in later in the week but it’s worth it. If I’m struggling, I’ll often just pack it in and start early the next day. Often, I’ll accomplish far more in two great hours than I would have in four hours on a day when I was struggling.

Feel guilty about leaving early? If you have the freedom to set your own hours, don’t. Often leaders will think of value in terms of the hours they put in. This is a mistake.

Don’t judge your work by the hours you put in, but by the output you produce.

If you can produce a better outcome the next day, do it.

6. Get a great night’s sleep.

Don’t dismiss this. Sleep is so important.

Go to bed early. Shoot for 8 hours. You will feel so much better in the morning.

Watch what happens to your emotions when you sleep for eight hours. They get healthier. 

You’ll be much better positioned to deal with lingering issues when you’re well rested. And chances are your funk will disappear.

Sleep is the secret leadership weapon no one wants to talk about.

Naturally, if your bad day becomes a bad week or a bad season, you may have something else going on. I blogged about getting through bad seasons and burnout here.

What helps you get through a bad day? What doesn’t?

Let me know in the comments.