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insecurity as a leader

Some Simple Practices that Will Get You Over Your Insecurity as a Leader

So you struggle with insecurity as a leader. Join the club.

It’s not fun to struggle with insecurity, but it is great that you see it. Self-awareness helps so much in leadership.

In my last post, I outlined 5 signs of insecurity in leadership.

So, beyond recognizing your problem, how do you overcome your insecurity?

As I’ve wrestled this issue down in my life, I’ve made several key transitions that have helped significantly. They’re not easy to understand, but difficult to do. The key is to simply do them again and again.

When you do these things, your insecurities begin to dissipate. Good habits displace bad impulses.

Here are five changes that can help you deal with underlying insecurity.

insecurities

1. Be generous with your praise

This might sound trivial, but it’s not. Insecure people are often jealous people.

One of the best ways to combat jealousy is to privately and publicly commend and compliment others. Especially if you don’t feel like it.

If you’re afraid of building others up because you think it might diminish you in some way, that’s the perfect time to do it. Don’t remain silent.

Don’t give them a back-handed compliment (“It’s about time he did something good!”) and don’t qualify the praise (“It was pretty good given her track record”).

Publicly celebrating the success of others will move you much closer to what Jesus was talking about when he commanded us to love enemies and people who persecute us.

Strangely, most of the people you don’t want to compliment aren’t close to being enemies.

So in those moments when others make a difference (there are many), smile and acknowledge it, privately and publicly. Be generous with you praise.

2. Recruit and promote people who are better than you

I had to wrestle this one down a number of years ago as we added staff and key volunteers. I had to hire people who were better than me at so many things. In fact, I’m only ‘best at’ a few things in our organization.

My goal in life is to give more of those things away.

Another way I had to deal with this head on is when we started Connexus Church as a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. That means when I’m not teaching, Andy Stanley is.

If you really want to wrestle down insecurity, just put the most gifted communicator around on the screen when you aren’t teaching.

It will quickly teach you to celebrate what others are amazing at, and experience contentment with the role you also play.

3. Give thanks for who you are instead of lamenting over who you aren’t

At the root of much insecurity are two beliefs.

First, that God somehow got it wrong when he created you. And second, that you need to compensate for this.

That’s why insecure people are jealous or resentful of others and why we somehow feel we need to ‘right’ the situation by withholding praise, refusing to hire or recruit better people because it might make us look bad, and trying to control things so they work out in our favour.

Why not start each day thanking God for how he created you?

Why not say “God, you have given me everything I need to accomplish what you’ve asked me to accomplish and you’ve given others exactly what they need to accomplish their mission”?

That shift will also help you relinquish your controlling tendencies.

Realizing God has given you all you need makes you both grateful and dependent.

4. Stop comparing yourself with others. Start learning from them

Constantly comparing yourself to others is a losing game no matter how you try to play it. You end up feeling inferior (wrong) or superior (sinful) to others every time you compare. It corrodes your heart.

So how to do you interact healthily with others? Learn from them. Plain and simple. You grow by being around other people, so grow.

What do they do well? What could you do differently? What are the charts and numbers telling you? How can you develop from what you’re learning?

5. Get ridiculously honest with yourself (and God)

I had a powerful moment in my journey a number of years ago. It was one of those moments where I wasn’t reading the scripture, the scripture was reading me.

This passage in James stopped me dead in my tracks. It described to a ‘T’ what I was experiencing in that moment.

Instead of blowing it off and ignoring it, I admitted (to my shame) that it described me. I prayed about it.

The next day I went back to the same text, reading and praying through it again.

I didn’t leave those four verses until the ugly things they described relinquished their grip on my heart. It took over a week.

Every time I’ve read that text in the years that have passed, I stop and give thanks to God for what he dealt with inside me in that season.

I’m so grateful. But you don’t get to that kind of breakthrough without ridiculous honesty about what’s really going on.

So level with yourself. And with God. Everyone else knows your weakness. So does God. So why not admit it?

We are masters of self-deception. Dead-honest confession stops that.

These five strategies have helped me. What’s helped you? What are you learning?

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can create a healthier leadership culture, I wrote about that in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

———

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the mainstream but in my view can still help leaders. — Carey

insecure leader

5 Signs You’re An Insecure Leader

Ever wonder if you’re an insecure leader?

There’s a bit of irony in that question. Insecure people by nature wonder about things like that. I know that because part of my personal leadership journey over the years has been spent battling insecurity.

It’s the same for many of us. Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity. In my next post, I’ll share some strategies that can really help getting past the struggle so many of us face.

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

Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you might be battling insecurity as a leader.

insecure leaer1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others

You and I 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. In fact, there’s just a lot of sin in comparison.

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

I’m a results-driven guy. I want to see this mission expand and I want to see things grow.

Some of that is good. And some of that can warp any sense of security you have.

You know you’re an insecure leader when your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, performance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews or what others say about you.

Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.

I do monitor all of these things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.

God’s opinion of me doesn’t equate 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.

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 inflict direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).

Insecure people always feel a need to be the most gifted person in the room. As a result, the number of gifted people in any room they’re in drops accordingly.

One 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.

Insecure people don’t need experts because they want to be the expert. Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.

Leaders who need to be the final word on everything end up leading not much more than themselves.

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.

How about you?  What have you noticed? Scroll down and leave a comment.

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can create a healthier leadership culture, I wrote about that in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

———

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the mainstream but in my view can still help leaders. — Carey

worship wars

5 Ways to Battle The Never-Ending Worship Wars

So let me guess: someone recently complained about the music at your church.

It doesn’t matter what style of music your church features or how traditional or edgy your music is; complaining about music is almost a universal phenomenon in the church today.

Some of that is generated by church shoppers (I outlined 5 characteristics of church shoppers here), but the problem is more pervasive than hearing from a few church shoppers.

It’s endemic to human nature and to our consumer driven culture that basically says everything revolves around me. While I think consumer Christianity will die in the future (here’s why), we’re not there yet.

Before we get started, please know this isn’t a slam against any particular style of music in the church.

In fact, I admire all churches that are innovating to become more effective in their mission.

But here’s the challenge.

Many leaders have almost spilled blood getting their church to change in the area of music (or making sure their church doesn’t change).

And yet, despite the battles fought over music, many churches are still not much further ahead in reaching people because of it.

Why is that?

There are five problems I see church leaders struggle with when navigating the sensitive and emotional issue of worship style in church.

worship wars

1. You become so focused on pleasing the people you have that you lose sight of the people you’re trying to reach

Whatever your music style, many church leaders are overly worried about how ‘their people’ will handle the change.

This is healthy. Leaders who don’t care how their congregation thinks eventually end up leading nobody.

But it’s also a trap. When peoples’ reactions become an overriding fear, the mission shifts away from reaching new people to keeping the people you have happy.

As a result, leaders:

Abandon change to keep people happy.

Compromise vision to try to satisfy the discontent.

Stop innovating to try to placate people.

These attempts at making people happy virtually never work (I wrote about the problems people-pleasing leaders face here).

What to Do

So what do you do to combat your people pleasing focus?

Focus on who you’re trying to reach rather than on who you’re trying to keep.

And when you’re communicating a change to your congregation, focus on why you’re making the change (to reach people) and far more people will accept what you’re trying to do (changing the style of worship).

If you want more on this subject, I’ve written more on leading change here.

2. You define ‘contemporary’ relative to how you used to worship

Let me name the elephant in the room. Most of what passes for ‘contemporary’ worship isn’t that contemporary at all.

Sure, the church has changed. And there may have been some battles over the change.

But walk into many self-described ‘contemporary’ churches and it feels like 2004, or 1994, or even 1984. The church isn’t actually ‘contemporary’ (contemporary means ‘occurring in the present’).

Tony Morgan makes a great point in The New Traditional Church: If most churches truly wanted to be contemporary, Sunday would have a lot more hip-hop and R&B (have you listened to the Top 40 lately?).

But most church leaders don’t like that style of music or are afraid their church wouldn’t.

What to do

Be honest. Don’t call yourself contemporary if you’re some paler version of it. Self-awareness and honestly actually matter if you’re trying to reach unchurched people.

Sadly, well-meaning self-deception runs rampant in church leadership today.

Be truthful about what you’re doing. If you are, it might just make you frustrated enough to make you change again.

In the meantime, realize that despite all the change, you might still be miles away from being relevant to the people living around you.

3. You’ve become stuck in “No Man’s Land”

I learned about No Man’s Land in churches from James Emery White.

It’s a term that describes churches too contemporary to please the traditionalists and too traditional to reach people who connect with a contemporary approach.

I have no desire to ignite a furious debate about ‘blended worship’ (a combination of traditional and contemporary styles).

Can it work? I’m sure it can, done right.

But you don’t have to get too far into the conversation with most church leaders who are in a blended format to realize it’s not an overriding passion to reach the outsider that fuels the change, it’s fear that if they go too much further there will be an apocalypse.

What’s the bottom line? Most blended worship happens because leaders are afraid to go further, not because leaders think it’s the best option.

The attempt to make everyone happy usually makes no one happy.

In my view, the last 10 percent of change is the hardest. When we transitioned from traditional to blended to full-out ‘contemporary’ music a decade ago, the last 10 percent of the change was harder than the first 90 percent. I think that’s how leaders get stuck.

Again, I’m not saying blended services are a bad thing (we’ve chosen to not embrace that strategy at Connexus for very specific reasons). I’m just saying if you end up there, make sure that’s where you want to be because you believe it’s the most effective way to accomplish your mission.

What to do

Don’t get stuck somewhere you’re not called to be.

Finish the change or make sure where you’re at is honestly the very best way to fulfill your mission.

4. Style has become an end in itself, not a means to an end

Your style of music and service should serve the mission. It is not the mission.

Once again, this nails all of us: traditionalists, innovators and everyone in between.

Our goal is not to arrive at a particular worship style. It’s to accomplish the mission Christ has given us.

I love how our church does music.

But 40 years from now, I don’t want to be sitting around in a retirement home with my friends complaining that young people today don’t sing enough Hillsong Young and Free, play cover tunes at church or make pour-over coffee.

The church should always change, and it needs to change on your watch.

How do you address this? 

Be committed to constant change. Don’t rest.

Your style as church helps you achieve the mission. It is not the mission.

5. Older leaders make decisions that belong to younger leaders

Far too often in the church, I have seen older leaders make decisions that rightly belong to younger leaders.

There is a role for middle-aged leaders and older leaders. They bring wisdom to the table and a seasoned viewpoint almost impossible to find in someone who is starting out.

I’m not slamming others. I am almost the oldest person on our staff team.

Even though I’m fairly up to date on culture, music, and technology, I’m no longer the guy who should be calling the music, design or cultural shots at our church.

I’m not sure most leaders over 40 should be. Not if you want to impact the next generation.

Sitting around the table at our service programming meetings are leaders who are 10-30 years younger than me (we almost always have a teenager in the mix).

I trust their judgment more than mine when it comes to how our services will connect with the people we’re trying to reach.

I have just seen too many leaders in their 40s, 50s and 60s make decisions that alienate younger generations and then sit around and ask where all the young people went.

Don’t be that leader.

What to do

Ensure you have younger leaders around your leadership table and empower them to make the decisions that drive your organization.

It’s really not more complicated than that.

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can have healthier conversations, I wrote about that in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

That’s what I see. I’d love to know what you’re seeing and experiencing.

What challenges do you see around music in the church? Scroll down and leave a comment!

_______

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the main stream but in my view can still help leaders. —Carey

prayer works

Why Christians Should Stop Saying “Prayer Works” (And 2 Other Things)

One reason people stay away from Christianity is not because they don’t know any Christians.

It’s often because they do.

Our actions and our words as followers of Jesus have the power to attract or repel people from Christianity.

The number of people who never go to church or follow Jesus keeps growing. And their thinking keeps changing too (I’ve outlined 15 characteristics of unchurched people here).

So what can we do about it?

Well, in addition to modeling humility, grace, truth, love and so many other things that describe the earliest Christ followers, we Christians can watch our words.

This post was originally inspired by a piece by Scott Dannemiller wrote, in which Dannemiller urged Christians to stop saying “feeling blessed” whenever something good came their way. He makes a thoughtful, insightful argument around that.

In that vein, here are three other things Christians should really stop saying.

prayer works

1. Prayer works

Should we really stop saying that prayer works?

Well, yes and no.

Most people who say prayer works these days really mean God did what I wanted him to do. As if prayer was a button to be pushed to release exactly what they wanted from the vending machine.

Prayer is not a button to be pushed; it’s a relationship to be pursued.

Prayer does ‘work,; but it works very differently than we’d like. It still ‘works:’

When we can’t trace out any direct result from our prayer.

When the opposite of what we prayed for happens.

In those moments when we feel very distant from God.

When we bang down the door of heaven for years and are not sure anything is going on up there at all.

There are scores of people inside and outside the church whose spirits are crushed because they prayed (fervently) and:

They didn’t get the job.

Their mom died of cancer.

Their child was born without a heartbeat.

They ended up in a car crash that left them permanently disabled.

Prayer doesn’t ‘work’ because I got what I wanted and they didn’t.

The parade of saints across the centuries would have been shocked to see prayer reduced to God-doing-what-I-asked-him-to-do-when-I-asked-him-to-do-it. God is not a puppy to be trained or a chef in the kitchen who prepares food to suit our every whim. He is sovereign.

As Richard Foster says:

For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer—nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.

Do things happen supernaturally when we pray? Well, yes they do. But often in ways we cannot understand or even trace out.

I think Christians can take consolation in the fact that when we pray, we often don’t know what to pray for or even how to pray, yet the scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit will translate the prayer into something better than we could phrase in the moment.

So pour your heart out to God. Pray about the things the scripture says are close to God’s heart. And when something ‘goes your way,’ be grateful and offer it back to the God who gave it to you.

And when things don’t go your way, understand that God is still very much in control and very much loves you. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean God is absent.

2. God told me to …

Often, you hear people (and pastors) say things that start with, “God told me to … .”

The longer I follow Jesus, the more hesitant I am to say God told me to do anything specific. Maybe that’s an issue I need to work on, but it springs from my observation that I’ve seen this misused far more than I’ve seen it used well or authentically.

In fact, I’ve often noticed that the more outrageous the claim, the more likely someone is to say, “God told me to … .”

When I hear someone claim God told them to do something, I feel like saying:

God told you to do that? Really? God himself spoke directly to you and told you to specifically build that building for which you have zero money? Or leave that church that you were in deep conflict with without resolving things? Or buy that house that’s way out of your price range? Wow!

Are you sure it wasn’t the pizza? Or the voice in your head that often tells you to do the things you simply feel like doing?

For the record, I believe there are times when God does speak to people today. But let’s be realistic. What made me put this phrase on the list is the number of times I have heard the phrase used to describe a decision that is:

Selfishly motivated (come on, admit it … you’re justifying your impulses).

Contrary to scripture (the scriptures pretty clearly suggest that what you’re doing is sinful … or at least isn’t wise).

Designed to shut down debate (does anyone really think they can win a “God told me” debate?).

I’m not saying God never tell us anything directly, but I am suggesting it happens far less than most of us claim.

So what’s a better course?

Say something like, “Based on what I know from scripture, I believe this is the best/boldest/wisest course of action.”

That makes sense. And then you can have an intelligent discussion.

And you don’t pull the God card to justify something about which Christians and others can have a legitimate discussion.

Or, if you’re just trying to shut down debate, just be honest. I wanted to do it, so I did it. There. Now you said it and everyone will feel better.

If you’re dead honest, you might even realize you made a crazy decision.

3. I could really feel God’s presence

You’ve heard this before. We live in an emotional age and we’ve arrived at a place where many of us feel like we’ve become mini-authorities on when God is present and when God is not.

But analyze that.

The truth is, we tend to feel God’s presence more:

When the band played our favourite song.

When the band played five of our favourite songs in a row.

When the room was packed.

When the decision went our way.

When we felt happy during our quiet time.

Is God only present when we feel him?

Or better yet, is God’s presence synonymous with our ability to detect it?

Well, of course not.

So why do we insist on speaking like it is?

Nowhere did God promise that the Holy Spirit is a feeling or an emotion.

Jesus did explain to us that the Spirit is a Person and moves freely. The Holy Spirit is bigger than our emotions and not subject to our editorial commentary about whether he is present or not.

I have had moments when I believe I felt the presence of God palpably.

But God is just as present:

On our worst days as he is on our best days.

When we are uncomfortable as when we are comfortable.

When we are hurting as when we are healing.

And sometimes … the room was just full, and the band was just really good.

We need to learn to trust in God’s presence especially in those moments we suspect he’s absent.

What if?

What if Christians started having more intelligent, less consumer-oriented, deeper conversations with people?

What if our relationship with Christ was grounded more deeply in God’s character and less in the constantly shifting circumstances we see around us?

I’m thinking the dialogue inside and outside the church would be so much healthier for it.

What do you think?

Any other things Christians should stop saying now? Scroll down and leave a comment!

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can relate to a constantly changing culture, I wrote about it in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

_______

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the main stream but in my view can still help leaders. I actually lost this article from my site two years ago in a site redesign along with another one I just re-published. Fortunately, ChurchLeaders.com had also featured it and it’s great to be able to re-run it on this site. —Carey

moral hook

Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook

I feel like I need to get something off my chest.

It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.

You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:

Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?

I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.

Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?

Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!

What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?

Whenever I hear that, I feel like saying, “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”

Think it through.

Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.

Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

moral hook

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:

1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are.

Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.

2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place)

Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christian friends. Is that a surprise, really?

I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live?

Exactly.

3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy

People don’t line up to be judged.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

4. Judging outsiders is un-Christian

Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us was saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?

1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them

Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.

2. Empathize with non-Christians

Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are, you might be doing exactly what the non-Christians in your neighbourhood are doing.

Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.

3. Hang out with non-Christians

Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence.

As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith.

I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.

4. Pray for unchurched people

How many unchurched people do you pray for daily? How many people you disagree with do you pray fro daily?

It is impossible to hate someone you genuinely pray for daily.

5. Live out your faith authentically

Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.

I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.

And then the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.

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

Want Practical Help?

If you want more on how your church can relate to a constantly changing culture, I wrote about it in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

_______

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the main stream but in my view can still help leaders. I actually lost this article from my site two years ago in a site redesign. Fortunately, ChurchLeaders.com had also featured it and it’s great to be able to re-run it on this site. 

In many ways, the thinking in this post is similar to my argument in my #1 most-read post of all time, Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian.—Carey

leadership vocabulary

3 Words You Should Drop From Your Leadership Vocabulary Starting Now

Words matter when you’re a leader, and not all words are equally useful.

In fact, you should banish at least three from your leadership vocabulary.

Nobody wins when you use these words regularly, and they might be damaging your leadership without you even realizing it.

I end up using these words when I fail to take decisive actions.

I use these three words

as substitutes for action

as substitutes for specifics

as substitutes for clarity

Chances are you might as well.vocabulary

3 Words to Banish Starting Now

So which three words trip up leader after leader and team after team? Here they are:

1. Someone

You know how this comes up. Someone should do something about that. Someone should fix that. Someone should step up.

Someone really means no one.

Here are some handy substitutes:

will do something about it today.

I’m going to ask Josh to have that fixed by Friday.

Every single day, I’m going to ask five people to tackle the problem until someone steps up and says yes.

You can’t build the future on someone.

2. Something

You’ve said it. We need to do something about that.

I’m sure that’s true.

But the translation is that no one will do anything about it at all. Not until you become clear and specific.

Exactly what needs to be done? If you can’t define the solution, you haven’t even properly diagnosed the problem.

But answer those specific questions and things change. Then you have a plan.

3. Someday

Leaders can’t help but dream about someday. I dream and think about the future every single day.

But someday is also the graveyard of too many dreams and far too much vision.

You’re going to hire a dream staff member someday.

You’re going to radically change your church someday.

You’re going to break that bad habit someday.

You’re going to get organized someday.

And someday never comes. Days become months which become years and absolutely nothing happens.

Someday actually means never.

As my friend Casey Graham says, deadlines drive decisions.

Putting a date on every intention might scare the life out of you, but that’s awesome. You’ll get things done. You will.

Jeffrey E. Garten has rightly pointed out that vision without execution is a hallucination. Far too many leaders hallucinate. And they’re not actually leading anyone when they do.

If you can’t put a calendar date on it, then put a year on it and reverse engineer toward it. Sure, you’ll encounter setbacks, but only the determined eventually break through.

I’m a far better leader when I stop talking about someone doing something someday.

You are too.

Any other words you’d banish?

Leave a comment!

Note, I’m currently on sabbatical and as a result, most of my new blog posts in May are re-posts of some of my favourite but not as well known posts from the past few years. Hope they help you lead like never before. – Carey

morning people

5 Ways Morning People Really DO Have a Leadership Advantage

So you’re trying to be more productive—to get more done in less time.

Here’s the question: does it really make a difference whether you’re a morning person or not when it comes to productivity?

One of the more frequently asked questions I get as a leader is ‘how do you get it all done?’   (church, blogging, podcast, speaking and writing books).

My answer is usually a variation of “It’s amazing what you can get done before 8 a.m. if you try.”

As painful as that may sound to you, it’s probably also true for you. The best leaders I know get more done before 10 a.m. than many people get done in a day.

Let me show you why and how.

morning personI Wasn’t Always a Morning Person…

I wasn’t always a morning person.

I spent my university days choosing classes based on how late they started so I could sleep in.

I’ve made the transition from NOT being a morning person to getting up most days between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m.

How did that happen? Well, the journey got started when my wife and I got married (I decided to get up at 8 because she was a morning person).

Having kids a few years later threw my schedule out the window and I started rising around 6 and kept that discipline up through my 30s. Usually I would get up early, pound through some email (after devotions) and then make breakfast and then start work in earnest around 9.

I spent my 30s wanting to write a book and having friends tell me I should. But I didn’t.

It wasn’t until my 40s that I started getting up earlier and really committing to a 5:00 a.m. wake up call.

Since then, I’ve led our church to the largest it’s ever been, published three books, blogged regularly, launched a podcast and spoken more regularly at conferences…plus spent meaningfully more time with my wife and kids than before.

Is that ALL because I got up earlier? No, age and stage have their advantages.

You accumulate (hopefully) wisdom, learn to do things faster, and your kids get older and don’t demand 24/7 attention like they used to (although I’m still convinced parenting teens requires as much or more time than parenting toddlers). Could I have done all of this in my 30s? Probably not.

But if I got up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. most days, I’m convinced all I’d be able to handle is my day job…and I’m convinced I would do it more poorly at that. In other words, I’m not sure I’d be doing anything more than my day job had I kept sleeping in.

So how does being a morning person give me (and many other leaders) a distinct advantage?

Here are 5 reasons:

1. Your brain is (probably) at its best

Personally, there’s no doubt I get my best work done before 10:00 a.m. My most creative thoughts, best insights and clearest analysis happens well before lunch.

I’m amazed at how many high capacity leaders I know tell me the same thing.

Some research backs up my personal findings—that morning people do significantly better overall than night owls do.

Other studies show a more balanced view with night owls gaining a few advantages over morning people.

My guess is we could trade studies all day long to make our points, but I’ve personally never been better than when I’m up early.

Your most important asset as a leader is your mind.

And personally, my brain just does better when it’s fresh off of rest. (I think sleep is the secret leadership weapon no one wants to talk about.) By working early (even if it’s just an hour), you do your most important work when your brain is at its best.

Naps can also reset your brain during the day…and I will often take a nap if I can. However, I find a nap recharges my brain for far less time than a 6-8 hour sleep will.

Your brain simply serves you better as a leader when it’s rested.

2. You’re more efficient because you beat rush hour

Work patterns are a lot like traffic patterns: at 5 a.m. you have the road to yourself. At 8 a.m., it could take you three times as long to travel the same distance.  

These days I do everything I can to beat traffic, not just on the road, but in life. I do most of my shopping at off hours.  My wife and I have even begun to do off-season travel.

Why? Because we end up having have more time to do what matters most.

Ditto with work.

Guess who’s texting you at 5:30 a.m.? Nobody.

Guess who’s emailing for you an urgent response at 6:15 a.m.? Nobody.

You’ve got the work lane all to yourself, which means you can work un-interrupted. You can think uninterrupted. You can actually accomplish all your most important tasks completely distraction-free.

And for a naturally ADD guy, I’m grateful for that.

By the way, this reason alone is enough for me to recommend starting early to any leader.

Working when no one else is working gives any leader a distinct advantage.

Any other time of the day, people are trying to communicate with you. But rarely do they do that before 8 a.m.

3. You get to work on your most important tasks

You know what’s fascinating about leadership?

Nobody asks you to accomplish your most important priorities. They just criticize you if you don’t.

In fact, not only will your colleagues never ask you to accomplish your priorities, they will usually ask you to help accomplish theirs.

Which is why you never get your work done.

That’s also what email is, by the way, other people asking you to do things that aren’t on your task list.

By starting early, you can accomplish your priorities and THEN be available to help others with theirs, in person or via email.

Starting early eliminates so much of the push and pull of the every day. Plus you’ll be far more kind and gracious when you interact with them, because you’re already done.

4. You already have series of wins under your belt

Sometimes all you need as a leader is some kind of win.

Starting early gives you that:

You got a jump on your message.

You came up with a great idea.

You discovered a new strategy.

You banged out a chapter you were not expecting to write.

You got the retreat planned ahead of scheduled.

With one or two wins under your belt, the rest of the day is easier.

So much of leadership remains undone at the end of the day–except for what you got done first.

5. Your big to-do’s are already done

Not only is SOMETHING done before 10:00 a.m., if you use your time well, the most important task for the day is done by mid-morning.

I’ve never tried this, but I suspect if I stopped working at 10:00 a.m. most days I’d still be 70% as productive as I am now. And more importantly, I’d have the most significant things done.

The way I usually spend my later time is in meetings, answering email or doing other tasks that require less mental energy.

But again, even if those don’t go well or take longer than expected, the big stuff is already accomplished. Which means you’re kind of already done for the day.

Think about what that could mean to you and the people you love: when you start early, you get your evenings back, your weekends back and your life back. Because your big work is…done. 

Start Now

So how can you become a morning person?

I’d try setting your alarm 15 minute earlier every week until you hit the time you think you need to be up. In a month, you could be operating one hour earlier than before.  (And remember to go to bed earlier too. I’m generally in bed between 9:30 and 10 most nights.)

Michael Hyatt has some great ideas on becoming a morning person as well.

The bottom line is: start now.

Wanting to be a morning person brings you none of the benefits of becoming a morning person.

What Do You Think?

Well morning people? What do you think? And night owls, we love you. We really do.

But I’d love to hear from everyone what you’re learning about productivity and time shifting.

Scroll down and leave a comment! Let’s get better together.

asking better questions

7 Keys to Asking Better Questions (What I’ve Learned From My Leadership Podcast)

If you want to become a better leader (and who doesn’t?), the key is simple: learn to ask better questions.

I wish I knew that 20 years ago when I started.

I thought leadership was about giving answers, not asking questions.

I still have to reign myself in from talking too much and listening too little, but I’ve worked hard on the art of asking questions over the last few years.

In mid-2014, I became immersed more deeply than ever before into the art of asking questions as I prepared to launch my leadership podcast (you can subscribe for free here).  It’s been an amazing journey, as 20 months in we just celebrated passing one million downloads. (Thank you to everyone for making the podcast so amazing!)

In addition, last year, I started interviewing for 100 Huntley Street, a national TV show in Canada (here’s an interview I did with Ravi Zacharias).

One of the surprisingly consistent questions I get is how I come up with the questions for my guests.

People seem to notice the approach I take and want to know how I prepare the questions.

The reality is I haven’t known how to answer that question except to say “I don’t know, I just do it.” Not very helpful.

I also get interviewed frequently these days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are better lines of questioning, and not-so-great lines of questioning.

So I sat down to try to figure out the principles behind the art of asking better questions.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. I think the principles work whenever you are interacting with someone…whether it’s the foyer on a Sunday, in a meeting, or for a podcast or show.

Asking better questions is foundational to better leadership.

So how do you learn to ask better questions?

I want to keep growing in this field, but here are 7 things I’m discovering.

better questions1. Put yourself in their shoes

You may be getting together to discuss an issue, but behind every issue is a person.

When you speak to the person behind the issue, not just the issue, you always have a better conversation.

How do you do that?

Start here: imagine what it’s like to be them.

This is true if you’re talking to Andy Stanley or whether you’re talking to a college student anxious about what’s next after graduation.

People have emotions, fears, dreams, hopes and experience everything else you do.

A great way to access this stream of thinking is to imagine the questions you would have if you were them.

Imagine launching a church that grows exponentially. What would your hopes, dreams and fears be?

Sure, the person you’re speaking with might respond differently than you would (and be open to that), but this at least gets you into the same emotional ball park.

If you can imagine what it’s like to be them, your questions will not only become better, but they’ll like you. Why? Because you just showed interest and empathy. And we all respond better to an interested, empathetic person.

2. Avoid putting people on the defensive

Most people heading into an interview or conversation are a bit worried—whether that’s a job interview, a podcast or TV interview, or a meeting where you’re asking questions.

They’re afraid they’re going to say something they’ll regret. Or afraid you’re out to make them look bad.

People sense right away whether you’re trying to make them look bad. And they respond to you accordingly.

Any cheap press or momentary victory you get from a controversial quote is in my view, so not worth it.

I never want to make anyone look bad. Even if I disagree with a person.

I just want them to tell their story…and if you put them at ease, they will.

“But what about the truth?” say the suspicious among you.

Well, that doesn’t mean you don’t ask real questions. But in fact, when someone is at ease, they’ll often tell you far more than they would if you put them on the defensive.

If you want to listen to a couple of very authentic interviews on very controversial topics, you can listen to my conversation with Justin Dean on the collapse of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, or Aaron Harris on what it’s been like for him to grow up in the church as gay man.

3. Ask what it felt like

I’m a logical guy. I think a lot. I’m a law school graduate. Most of what I do these days boils down to thinking, solving problems and then figuring out how to communicate what I’ve learned.

As a result, I constantly process principles behind why things are the way they are, and why people do what we do.

But deep down, we’re all emotional creatures. I am. You are.

So is anyone you talk to.

If you really want to connect with the person you’re speaking with (or interviewing), when they tell you about a critical moment in their life (good or bad) ask them what it felt like.

What was it like to learn you had cancer?

What did it feel like to have half your church walk out overnight?

What did it feel like for you as a leader to go from 100 people to 1000 people attending your church overnight?

What were you feeling when you failed out of college and had to go home to tell your parents?

In those moments, you move from head-to-head conversation to heart-to-heart conversation.

And those are my favourite conversations. That’s the kind of stuff around which friendships and bonds form—both between you and your guests, and your guests and any listeners.

4. Look for the counter-intuitive or exceptional

Lots of counter-intuitive things happen in life.

Follow that trail.

For example, when I interviewed Perry Noble about burning out in Episode 2 of my leadership podcast, he mentioned it happened when his church had never been bigger and when things had never been ‘better.’

That really surprised me, and we spent a good part of the interview exploring that.

Exploring the counter-intuitive usually leads to great places because it attacks widely held assumptions. For example, people assume you burn out with things are going poorly, not when things are going well.

In a similar way, people are surprised that successful people struggle.

In my view, that’s what made the interview I did with Passion Ministries founder Louie Giglio so riveting. He talked openly and honestly about how success led him to break down and how he battled back.

Bottom line? If something surprises you, chase it.

5. Drill down

Our world is filled with 2-minute sound bites.

The best conversations in my view never happen in 10 minutes or between commercial breaks. They happen long after people have used all their sound bites and pushed past their ready-made answers.x

I took a risk in doing long-form podcasting when I launched (the average episode is around an hour). The reason I chose that path is because meaningful real life conversations tend to be longer, not shorter.

Taking your time also allows you to drill down on key issues.

Whether it’s my podcast, a meeting, or even a job interview I’m conducting, most of my questions are unplanned. I always write questions out ahead of time, but you can’t really anticipate the good stuff.

When you hear something someone says that piques your interest, drill down on it.

Go further. As in:

What do you mean by that?

Fascinating…tell me more.

What happened next?

What…say that again? What happened?

That kind of questioning opens up the floodgates for new insights and principles.

If you just move onto the next question, you usually lose a goldmine in the process.

6. Be curious

Curiosity is your best friend as a leader.

When you’re interviewing, act more like a 6-year-old than a 36-year-old.

Ask why…a lot.

If you’re genuinely curious, ask:

Why did you think that?

Why do you think that happened?

Why didn’t you quit?

Why did you make that decision?

‘How’ is another amazing curiosity question:

How did you even think that was possible?

Wait, how did that happen?

How did you possibly think that might work?

Even in a meeting setting, you will learn so much more about the person you’re talking with or the issue you’re studying if you stay curious.

The best leaders I know are insatiably curious.

They want to know how and why things work, and they want to know more about the things they don’t know about.

So…be curious.

7. Forget about yourself

Too many leaders are interested in making a point rather than asking a question.

And that’s a critical mistake.

If you’re always trying to show how smart you are, you accomplish the opposite.

When I started my podcast in the fall of 2014, my wife listened to the first few episodes and said (in a very loving way), “You talk too much.”

I felt like saying, “It’s MY podcast!”

But she was right.

Since that time, I try to talk less than 10% of the time in a interview (unless the interview is designed to be a two-way conversations, as a few have been).

I’ve tried to talk a lot less in my daily leadership as well. It’s way too easy for me to dominate meetings and I have to put a constant check on my tongue and brain.

After all, leaders, when you listen first and speak second, people are far more interested in what you have to say.

What Do You Think?

Hopefully asking better questions leaves you and whoever you’re talking with feel amazing after a conversation. That’s my goal whenever I talk to a leader, on air or off air.

If you want unlimited free access to my podcast, you can subscribe for free here on any of these channels:

iTunes

Stitcher

TuneIn Radio

RSS feed

In the meantime, what helps you ask better questions? Scroll down and leave a comment!

emotions

5 Things Great Leaders Know About Their Emotions That Others Don’t

Emotions.

Some days you orobably think it would be better if you could lead without them.

You get excited about a new idea only to become discouraged when no one else thinks it’s a great idea…or it doesn’t work.

As a church leader, you spend most of Monday wishing Sunday had been different, and it’s rarely healthy.

You get one nasty email and it ruins your day week.

Your bad day at work becomes a bad night at home.

Your mood dictates too much of the tone at the office.

Misunderstood and unaddressed emotions sink more leadership potential than most of us realize.

If you don’t understand your emotions or know how to manage them, you will never reach your leadership potential.

And yet emotions are absolutely necessary for great leaders.

So how do you manage your emotions?

There are 5 practices effective leaders adopt when it comes to their emotions. Knowing them can make a huge difference in your leadership.

emotions

So what do effective leaders do with their emotions?

Well, great leaders:

1. Never let today’s emotions drive tomorrow’s decisions

When emotions drive decisions, you almost never make great decisions.

For sure, great decision making is a combination of the head and the heart.

But think about all the terrible decisions you’ve made when you were emotional:

You said terrible things.

You fired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You hired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You lost your temper in a meeting.

You broke up.

You ate too much.

You drove so fast you got a killer ticket.

You almost quit.

You did quit.

Wise leaders know that. They realize that rash things they do today impact tomorrow.

They have come to realize that no matter how they feel in the moment, a good night’s sleep, some prayer, discussing the matter with wise friends and even some distance will make for a better decision down the road.

I had to learn this the hard way, but it’s such a good principle: Don’t make tomorrow’s decision on today’s emotions.

2. Refuse to let emotions distort reality

Emotions distort reality.

It’s never as bad as you think when you’re emotional. And it’s likely not as great as you think either.

Emotions make you see negative things more negatively than you should, and positive things even more positively than you should.

Even positive emotions can hurt you when they are detached from reality. If you’re overly positive, you can ignore reality, miss impending dangers and gloss over problems that actually require your attention.

Time is your friend when it comes to making wise decisions. Putting a little distance between your emotions and your decisions is a great strategy.

So is wise counsel. Great leaders trust the judgment of other people as much as they trust their own.

And when they’re emotional, they trust the judgment of others more than they trust their own.

3. Won’t let emotions spawn selfish behaviour

Bad days or bad emotions are most often fueled by pain.

A stinging email triggers a deep hurt. A bad staff situation eats away at your joy. A season without momentum erodes your self-confidence.

You end as a leader in pain. And pain is selfish.

In the same way that stubbing your toe makes you forget about whatever else you were doing until the pain is resolved, your emotional pain (no matter its source) makes you more selfish as a leader.

People in pain:

Don’t listen well to others.

Withdraw and sulk.

Blame others.

Eventually turn every conversation to a conversation about themselves and their needs.

Want others to share their misery or sadness.

Seek attention.

And selfish leaders are never effective leaders.

Effective leaders know that.

The best way to get rid of your selfishness is to get rid of your pain.

Pray about it. See a counsellor. Drill down on your issues.

4. Let emotions fuel passion

Emotion isn’t all bad.

After all, who wants to follow an emotionless leader?

In fact, when you look at churches that are doing a great job of reaching adults under 35, passion is an indisputable characteristic (here are the other 4). Passion is directly fueled by emotion and is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to fake.

Consequently, great leaders realize there is no sustained or contagious passion without emotion.

You are attracted to people who are passionate, or at least you can’t easily dismiss them.

When you lead with passion, teach with passion and preach with passion, your leadership becomes far more magnetic.

Plus, passion ends up fueling you. It’s what makes you get out of bed in the morning and drives you on.

Effective leaders are emotional, but they ensure that the emotions that drive them in leadership are the emotions that positively impact others.

5. Keep their hearts fully engaged

Your heart gets beat up in leadership, and as a result it’s easy to pull your heart back. To never engage. To stop trusting. To withdraw.

Effective leaders simply don’t do that.

They realized that the great leaders push past the hurt, the cynicism and the pain and keep their hearts fully engaged.

They decide to hope again, to trust again and to believe again.

Why? Because when your heart is engaged and alive, you become a better leader.

When you feel a full range of emotions (both positive and negative) you can empathize with people who are hurting and celebrate with people who are celebrating.

You can walk with a group or congregation through a hard time and celebrate joyfully in the great moments.

To do that, you need to keep your heart healthy and in tune.

I wrote about the top 10 habits of leaders who effectively guard their hearts here.

And if you think your heart isn’t, here are some signs it might be burn out and some resources to help you get your heart back.

What Are You Learning?

If you want to drill deeper, I wrote more about the impact of emotions on leadership in my best-selling book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

Managing your emotions in leadership is one of the things that distinguishes great leaders from the rest.

What are you learning about managing your emotions as a leader?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Church shoppers

5 Key Differences Between Church Shoppers and the Unchurched

Every week you hope to have new people at your church.

But there’s a world of difference between reaching the unchurched and attracting serial church shoppers.

I’m fortunate to be part of a church where we’ve had first-time guests every single weekend since we launched eight years ago.

While it’s easy to think of a visitor as simply a ‘visitor,’ not all visitors are the same.

Like many of you, our goal is to reach the unchurched. And in nearly every community, there’s a growing number of unchurched people to reach.

But there’s another group entirely that shows up at your church regularly: church shoppers.

Serial church shoppers are not the same as the family that moved and is looking for a church in their new community who might try five churches before settling. Nor are they the same as family that is leaving a church they’ve been part of for years, has exited well (here are some thoughts on how to do that) and is looking for a new place to call home for a long time.

Families moving to your community and Christians who transfer well out of another church can be welcome additions to any local church.

But serial church shoppers are different. They’re consumers.

If you end up facing a true church shopper, you might discover that they’ve been to 5 different churches in the last 10 years, and will soon have another one (that’s not yours).  Or you might discover they’ve never settled down anywhere and have 3 churches they sample regularly, when it’s convenient.

As a leader, being aware of the difference between church shoppers and who you truly want to reach is critical.

I have seen far too many church leaders waste time and energy trying to please church shoppers, to no avail. Do it regularly, and it will take you completely off mission.

Trying to appease a serial church shopper is an exercise in pleasing the un-pleasable.

Here are 5 key differences between church shoppers and the unchurched every church leader should know to ensure your church stays on mission.

Church shoppers1. Church shoppers think their job is to evaluate; the unchurched are looking to learn

A church shopper comes into every church with an evaluation mindset.

Is this my kind of music?

Is the preaching good?

Did the people notice me?

Do I like this place?

It’s not that unchurched people don’t ask the same questions. They do. And be honest. To some extent, we all do.

But a church shopper thinks the church exists to please them. After all, that’s why they left the last eight churches.

An unchurched person might start with evaluation, but they ultimately don’t stay there. They want to learn. They want to grow. They want to challenge and explore, and most are very open to a much deeper journey than one that starts and ends with evaluation.

Church shoppers ask, “Did I like it?” And the moment they don’t, they’re done.

If you really boil it down, serial church shoppers think their mission is to criticize, not contribute.

2. Church shoppers move quickly from love to hate; the unchurched warm up to you gradually

It’s not uncommon to have a church shopper tell you how much they love love love your church on the first Sunday.

But over the years I’ve seen this pattern: people who love your church immediately and go out of their way to tell you how it’s the best thing ever rarely feel that way for long.

In fact, they often end up disliking your church just as strongly. And they’re vocal about it.

The unchurched (and healthy Christian transfer growth) is different. They might like your service, but they’re a little more reserved in getting involved or even letting their heart buy in.

In my experience, the people who begin a little cautiously or at least moderately and who gradually warm up turn out to be the healthiest church members in the long run.

Contrast that with a church shopper. Sometimes it seems like everything church shoppers love about your church today they will dislike tomorrow.

3. Church shoppers want your church to be like the last church (that they left); unchurched people don’t

I continue to be amazed at how often a church shopper will tell you how much they didn’t like their last church but then ask you why your church isn’t more like that church.

Our old church had a men’s ministry.

Our old church had more singable music.

Our old church had far more mid-week activities happening.

Which makes me want to ask: “Then why did you leave?”

It’s actually a good question.

The unchurched, if they have any concept of a ‘last church’ are usually opposed to some stereotype of church that revolves around judgmental preaching, boring services and outdated methods.

Often they’re railing against a straw man from the last generation. And they appreciate the alternative you’ve created.

4. Church shoppers blame the church when things go wrong; the unchurched take responsibility

Somehow, the fact that a church shopper doesn’t like any church never seems to be their fault.

It’s always the church that lets them down.

In preparing to write this post, I put feelers out on social media, asking what frustrations people experience with church shoppers. Jason Stockdale, who pastors the three month old Hills Church in Memphis, shared this story from another ministry he was part of:

A couple had been to 4-5 churches over the last 2 years, I followed up with their “connection card” when they visited. They claimed they never could get “connected” at any other church, but really liked our church the few times they had been. Proceeded to then tell me the son plays competitive baseball 6-7 months out of the year and the dad often travels with him on the weekends, the daughter plays competitive volleyball and soccer (pretty much year around) and the mom travels on the weekend with her. The mom worked nights as a nurse so they had no nights during the week available to get connected in a group and were rarely ever going to be at church together as a family.

I did everything I could to get them involved in one of our Sunday morning small group classes we offered, they lasted about 6 months and then he called me one day and said they were going to start looking for another church, they just didn’t feel connected to ours.

I think every church leader can relate. Sure, shift work is tough, but there are other choices in the mix that might have prompted more introspection and ownership.

Sadly, I suspect the pattern for this family might repeat itself again and again.

Why is it the people you do the most for are the people who claim you failed them?

In my experience, the unchurched, by contrast, take far more responsibility if things don’t work out. They’ll say “Hey, I’m just not sure this is the right thing for me. Keep doing what you’re doing. But I think I’m out.”

Sure, that’s disappointing, but it’s healthy.

Before we leave the subject of responsibility, here are 5 things people blame the church for…but shouldn’t.

5. Church shoppers want to lead THEIR ministry; unchurched people want to get involved in THE ministry

If a church shopper gets involved for a season, they’ll often want to lead THEIR ministry rather than get involved with your ministry.

Maybe it’s a group or something they did at their old church, or a special cause they’re passionate about.

Often with serial church shoppers, ministry involvement is more about them than it is about the mission.

Unchurched people are usually fine getting involved with the wider mission of the church. They’re content with finding their part in a larger story. They don’t have to be the story.

What Do You See?

Am I saying that ALL church shoppers are unhealthy and ALL unchurched people are healthy?

No.

There’s likely a story under some serial church shoppers’ experience that explains the behaviour.

And is every unchurched person healthy?

No, not at all.

But I will take a genuinely unchurched person over a serial church shopper any day, not just because that relationship is far more on mission, but because it actually has the potential to change a life.

Serial church shoppers are more interested in changing a church than they are in changing their life.

Here’s to staying on mission. And if some serial church shoppers settle down in the process, that’s amazing.

In the meantime, what has you spinning your wheels when you could be reaching the unchurched instead?

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