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desire for consensus

Why It’s Time to Give Up On Your Desire for Consensus

So you’d love to get everyone to buy into your idea, don’t you?

Church leaders (and many other organizational leaders) are famous for trying to get consensus around an idea before launching it.

I get that.

But consensus has a cost. A big cost. Here it is:

Consensus kills courage. 

Very few good, innovative ideas gain consensus before a leader acts.

In fact, most great new ideas worth anything are divisive right out of the gate.

As a result, leaders shrink back. They smell the tension, and they back off. They try to get too much buy-in on the front end, and their vision doesn’t actually become better, it just becomes diluted.

As a result, too many leaders lose hope, passion and vision.

Why is that? How can you turn it around?

drive for consensus

Think about how different history would be if great leaders always needed consensus from the people they led:

Moses would have left the Israelites in slavery.

Jesus would have listened to the disciples and talked himself out of the cross.

Peter would never have given up his kosher diet.

The apostle Paul would have gone back to Phariseeism.

Martin Luther would have waited for his bishop to approve.

Martin Luther King would have delayed until legislators were sympathetic.

Even Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line and first mass producer of cars, famously said that if he’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses.”

Any time you’re seeking to bring about radical change, most people will think it’s a terrible idea. And sometimes, they’re right.

But there are other times where they’re not.

You should live for the ‘once in a while’ idea. It’s the kind of idea that changes everything.

When it comes to courageous change, here are four things that are true:

1. Consensus on the front end kills courage

If you look for consensus during a season of innovation, it will almost always strip the courage out of your idea.

Trying to find consensus while mining for fresh ideas results in diluted ideas because people often don’t realize what they need before they see it.

No one needed smart phones…until the smartphone was invented. Now try to remove it from the marketplace or your life.

Even the electric light bulb was seen as a stupid idea. Scientist Henry Morton of the Stevens Institute of Technology predicted the light bulb would be ‘a conspicuous failure.’ A British parliamentary committee concluded the light bulb was ‘good enough for our transatlantic … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.’

And if you are looking for courage, few things will kill it faster than the drive for early consensus.

The best idea only looks like the best idea after it wins.

2. Individuals are almost always more courageous than teams

I don’t know why this is true, but it’s often easier for a team of people to adapt to a bold idea and make it better than it is for a team to come up with a bold idea.

This isn’t always the case, but in many instances, I think it is. I dream in teams and I encourage people to dream alone, but often the best ideas come from one person.

Teams are one thing. Committees are another.

I’m not 100% sure what the differences are between the two, but I think teams tend to attract leaders while committees rarely do.

So, if you want to kill vision, form a committee. The committee will beat the life out of any innovation you bring to the table.

Most dying organizations have committees. Almost no growing organizations do. It’s an interesting observation.

3. You shouldn’t walk alone, but innovation may require you to start alone

Walking alone is a bad idea, but starting alone is sometimes required for true innovation.

The need to start alone or with a handful of people by your side is not that uncommon a phenomenon.

For example, when I launched my leadership podcast two years ago, almost all the advice I got was “keep it short…people have small attention spans” and “feature your ideas on the podcast.”

I didn’t want to do that. Instead, I wanted to do two things: bring a longer form podcast to the church space AND do it by featuring me interviewing other leaders. Every other podcast in the church leaders space at the time was shorter and featured the podcast subject interviewed by someone else.

Against most of the advice given to me, I launched the podcast as a 45-minute to 90-minute episode with me interviewing someone else. To be fair, I had seen this format done in other areas, but no one in the church space that I knew was doing it.

Now, 24 months later, people seem to love the format, and it’s caught on quickly. I’m not doing it alone anymore, but I had to start alone.

Sometimes that’s okay.

4. Great ideas gain consensus on the back end

So how do you know if you have a truly great idea?

Watch and see if people buy in on the other side of the launch.

What should happen is that as your idea gains steam, more and more people buy in until, on the other side of the launch, you have success.

The principle? Look for consensus on the back side of change, not the front side.

If no one buys into your idea over time, you probably have a bad idea.

Here are some ideas to get you started if you’re handling a divisive, innovative idea:

Don’t ask the team for agreement, just get permission.

Listen to people, but follow your gut.

If you’re wrong, take full responsibility.

When it emerges that you were right, be humble and invite others on the journey.

Ask yourself this

I realize these ideas are controversial. I realize acting on them might get you fired.

But would you rather look back in 30 years with regret at how many great ideas were anesthetized by a visionless committee or group?

Or… would you rather look back and be satisfied that you did everything in your power to bring about change, even if it got you in trouble?

Of course, the third option might be that you successfully ushered in the change that changed everything. But I’d even settle for trying, failing and getting in trouble.

This is not an excuse to be a jerk, but it is permission to be courageous.

So today, don’t look for consensus. Instead, be courageous.

What are your frustrations about consensus? Scroll down and leave a comment!

(P.S. If you want to read more about leading change, I wrote all about leading change without losing it in my book, and also in this blog series about change that starts here.)

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?

Yep.

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.

Why?

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.

iphon

 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?

Listening?

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!

time to leave

7 Signs It’s Time to Leave

So you’ve thought about leaving, haven’t you?

Thinking of leaving your current job is a fairly normal phenomenon. And yet in ministry, changing churches seems to happen faster than in many other occupations.

While statistics vary, most pastors stay 3 to 7 years in one place before moving on. In my view, that’s barely enough time to effect any change. And I doubt it’s long enough to bring about transformation.

What’s the difference between change and transformation? Simple. Transformed people never want to go back to the way it was.

My personal theory is that it takes 3-5 years to change a church. It takes at least 7 years to transform it.

For that reason alone, I have a bias toward staying in the same church for a long time. I’ve served in the same community with the same group of people for 21 years.

Should everyone stay that long?

Not necessarily. I’ve also seen leaders stay for years past their effectiveness in leadership. That’s a disaster for everyone.

So how do you know when you should stay in your current position in ministry, and when should you go?

My friends Kenny Conley and Sam Luce are also writing today on when it’s time to go.

Kenny Conley just left a major ministry in Austin, Texas. He shares some thoughts on why he left and insights into how he knew it was time to go in this post.

Sam’s been in the same place for 14 years and argues you ought to stay much longer than you might think.

Clearly, I’ve stayed for two decades in the same place. And I feel like I’m here indefinitely.

So would do you know it might be time to leave?

Here are 7 signs that would demonstrate to me it’s time to move on. If you see them in your situation, it might be time to go.

time to leave

1. You’ve lost your passion

We all lose passion some days. Your passion might even disappear for a short season. It happens to all of us. That’s actually not a reason to move on.

Loss of passion might be a sign you’re burning out, or it could be that you need some rest or another adjustment. Moving to a new church won’t solve that kind of passion-loss. In fact, it might make it worse.

But one sign your time in a place could be drawing to a close is that you’re basically healthy but your passion for that particular ministry is gone.

You’re still passionate about life. You’re passionate about other things. You may even be passionate about other ministries or other opportunities.

It’s just your passion for ministry in that place and time has vaporized.

If that’s the case, it’s a sign the end may be near. Why?

Because a passionless leader is an ineffective leader.

2. There’s no other role you could get excited about

Just because your passion is fading in one area doesn’t mean your tenure at a church is over.

Last year, I knew I didn’t want to leave my church but I found my passion for the things I was doing getting narrower.

After what was truly a few incredible months of prayer and processing with mentors and our elders, I transitioned from the Lead Pastor role at my church (being the Lead Pastor is the only role I’ve held in a church since I started) into a Founding and Teaching Pastor role.

The result? I love it. My passion is back, stronger than ever, and I’m completely excited about the future of our church.

I got to keep the parts of my job I’m most passionate about and throw my weight behind our mission for a whole new season.

If you want more on the transition (many of you have asked) I’ll share the entire story in an upcoming episode of my Leadership Podcast. (If you subscribe for free, the episode will automatically download to your phone or device when it releases.)

Your renewal may not come from leaving, but simply changing what you’re doing where you are. Just switch roles.

3. You’ve affected all the change you can

Another sign it’s time to leave is simply this: you’ve affected all the change you can.

Maintaining what you’ve built never advances your mission because it elevates what happened yesterday over what could happen today and tomorrow.

Sometimes leaders realize they’ve done as much as they can.

Perhaps a new leader will need to come in to pick up where the current leader left off because the current leader has done everything they know how to do.

Or sometimes a leader’s desire to change exceeds the congregation’s willingness to change, despite long conversations about the need to change.

How do you know your church is done changing? In this post, I outline 7 signs your church will never change.

When your church won’t change or you can no longer lead that change, it might be time to go. Otherwise, all your best days will be behind you.

And when your best days are behind you, it’s time for a new future.

4. Your vision no longer lines up with the organization’s vision

The ideal leadership environment is when the leader’s vision and the organization’s vision line up.

Naturally, a leader will always be a little ahead of the church or organization—otherwise he or she wouldn’t be a leader.

But over time, the leader’s vision and the organization’s vision can become out of sync.

Sometimes the leader has more vision than the church can handle (see Point 3 above). And sometimes the organization wants to go faster or head in a more progressive direction than the leader.

Or sometimes the visions just become different.

Great leadership requires a syncing of the leader’s vision with the organization’s direction. When that’s not true, great leadership becomes impossible.

5. You feel like a fish out of water

This is a bit of an odd one, but I’ve had it happen to me more than once—not at our church, but with different organization’s I’ve partnered with.

Sometimes you fit really well into an organization; the cultural sync is perfect. You are what they are about and they are what you’re about…or at least as close as you can get this side of heaven.

But as time goes on, you change or the organization changes. Maybe your values shift. Or as you grow as a leader, you morph into a different kind of leader than you used to be.

Maybe you’re largely the same but the organization shifts, not in terms of vision, but in terms of style, culture and feel.

The best way I can describe how that feels when it’s happened to me is that I end up feeling like a fish out of water.

What used to be so natural and easy now makes me feel like I just don’t fit—for whatever reason.

When you no longer feel like you fit, you’ll never realize your full potential as a leader. And the organization won’t realize their potential either.

6. Your excitement about what’s happening elsewhere is greater than your passion for what’s happening where you are

When you’re more excited about someone else’s future than your organization’s future, you’re in trouble.

Nobody should be more passionate about a church’s future than a leader. Why? No church’s passion for the mission will ever exceed the passion of its leader. Sure, for a week it can. Or a month. But never for long.

If your passion for what’s happening elsewhere is greater than your passion for what’s happening where you are, it’s almost impossible to stay where you are.

Naturally, you would have to make sure you’re not struggling with a ‘grass is greener’ scenario, but sometimes you genuinely are not.

7. Your inner circle agrees

All of these signs notwithstanding, how do you know you’re reading the situation correctly?

Answer? You don’t.

But other people do.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate and consult an inner circle of people who know you well. If you’re married, your spouse will have great insight into whether you’re reading the signs accurately.

In addition, every leader should have an inner circle of at least 3 to 5 people who know them well enough and love them deeply enough to tell them the truth.

I get emails all the time from leaders who ask me whether they should stay in their job or go, and I always tell them: go ask someone who knows you and knows the situation. I hate it when they email me back and tell me they don’t have anyone like that.

I honestly can’t help them, and they’ve left themselves isolated and prone to making bad decisions. No ‘expert’ can help them in a case like that.

I have no idea whether they should stay or go other than to send them a post like this and tell them to prayerfully apply it to their situation with the counsel of people around them.

I could never have made the move – or would  have made the move –  I made last year into a Founding and Teaching Pastor role without the input of not only my inner circle, but also about a dozen other close friends and associates who weighed in on my decision.

I definitely prayed about it at length, but we prayed about it at length, too. And we talked about it—openly and honestly, weighing all the pros and cons before making a decision.

After all, if you’re the only one who thinks it’s a good idea, it’s probably not a good idea.

Want More?

I had a great conversation with former Catalyst CEO Brad Lomenick on why he left Catalyst at the height of its success in this episode of my leadership podcast. You can listen to Episode 27 direct on iTunes or Google Play or below.

And make sure you check out Sam and Kenny’s posts about staying and leaving for their perspective.

In the meantime, what do you think?

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).

shutterstock_389894194

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!

insider-focused

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Congregation Is Insider-Focused

So many churches that aren’t growing wonder why they’re not growing.

Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing about your church or a friend’s church.

Of course, people point to many reasons why their church isn’t growing (I cover 10 frequent reasons in this post), but underneath all of them is one root cause: insider-focus.

Churches that stop growing almost always have lost their heart for outsiders.

Even if many say they’re still passionate about reaching new people, their actions deny their intentions.

So how do you know whether your church is focused on insiders?

Here are 5 tell-tale signs:

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1. Personal preference drives decision-making

In insider-focused churches, member preference rules. Everything from the preaching to the music to the programming gets evaluated through the lens of whether people ‘like’ it or not.

As a result, people-pleasing rules. As soon as a church leader hears that member X isn’t happy, the expectation is that the leader will try to placate the member or make the changes necessary to keep him or her attending.

The challenge is there is zero objective standard.

The standard is whether people like it.

As a leader, you end up playing whack-a-mole because different people ‘like’ different things, and no one can agree on what they like. Which is exactly why churches end up adding far too much variety to their services and too much programming to their menus.

In your attempt to please everyone, you please no one. And besides, as I outline in this post, your church can’t be for everyone anyway.

Regardless, if personal preference drives decision-making, you will always make bad decisions.

2. Emotion trumps mission

Insider-focused churches have a mission, it’s just that no one lives by it because emotion trumps mission.

How does that happen?

Because members are so bent on pleasing themselves, discussion about future direction becomes very emotional: it becomes about what people feel, who’s happy, who’s not happy, who’s thinking of leaving, who might stay if X changes, and what would need to happen for people to be satisfied again.

As a result, leaders make emotional decisions trying to appease the unappeasable, and congregations react in kind: emotionally.

Lost in all of this is one thing: the mission to reach people.

3. Sacrifice is non-existent

In an insider-focused church, no one sacrifices anything for the sake of others, because people believe others ought to sacrifice to please them.

If the church exists to make you happy, why wouldn’t people sacrifice more to make you happier?

In outsider-focused churches, the opposite is true.

Insiders sacrifice for the sake of outsiders. They realize that when they give, others live. That when they decide the church isn’t about them, the find a joy that is so elusive to selfish people.

Externally focused churches realize that sacrifice for the sake of others is a pathway to joy.

Internally focused congregations never understand that.

4. Any growth is mostly transfer growth

Do some internally-focused churches grow? Sure…that can happen.

But it’s not real growth. It’s not mission-induced growth.

In an insider-focused church, almost all the growth that takes place (if any happens at all) is transfer growth. Not the kind of transfer growth that happens when a new Christian family comes to town or a family makes a once-in-a-decade move to a new church.

The transfer growth that insider-focused churches usually attract is the kind of growth that attracts serial church shoppers.

And guess what transfer growth often looks for? A church to make them happy. (I wrote a post on the challenges of transfer growth here.)

Best wishes with trying to make them happy.

5. Innovation is dead or on life-support

Most insider-focused congregations aren’t excited about the future, they’re afraid of it.

For the most part, insider-focused churches cling stubbornly to the present or the past, preferring the way things are or the way things used to be over the way things could be.

As a result, innovation dies. New ideas are shot down. Anything that would reach people who currently aren’t being reached  is viewed with suspicion or even called ‘unfaithful.’

Members end up liking their church ‘just the way it is,’ which usually means they like it smaller and smaller every year.

So What’s the Antidote?

The antidote to insider-focus is simple: your mission.

One of the best ways to refocus your mission is this: focus on who you want to reach, not on who you want to keep. I learned that truth years ago from my friend Reggie Joiner, a co-founder of North Point Church and now CEO of Orange. Reggie is so right.

An external focus will beat insider drift every day, all day.

So, shift your focus. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep.

Will you anger some members? Yes.

But they will have other churches to go to. The unchurched don’t.

Any Thoughts?

If you want more, I write about the changes the church needs to make to get healthy and reach people we’re not reaching in my book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Any other signs of insider-focused churches you’d like to share?

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.

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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.

boring sermons

7 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block and Eliminate Boring Sermons

Ever write a message or talk that even you suspected was boring?

That’s exactly where I found myself this week.

I’d outlined my message for our current series weeks ago, but when I went back into it 6 days before delivery, I realized I’d written a basically boring sermon on a fundamentally exciting subject.

What’s worse, it moved me into one of the worst cases of writer’s block I’ve had in years.

I worked at the message day after day but I just couldn’t make it interesting, despite having a fascinating subject (heaven).

Don’t get me wrong. As a preacher and Christian, I’m the first to tell you God’s Word is never boring. But sometimes we preachers make it boring. That’s exactly where I was heading this Sunday.

I kept tweaking the message for a few days with little success. I still found it…boring. And preachers, if you’re bored by your message, it’s a guarantee your audience will be as well.

How did I get through it? Well, I dug out everything I know about beating writer’s block and solving the problem of boring writing.

It worked…I think. You only ever really find out on Sunday. But I’m no longer bored by my message. In fact, I’m excited to preach it.

Almost every communicator I know has been there…so I thought I’d share my 5 best tips on beating writer’s block and eliminating boring sermons.

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1. Find the tension

If a sermon or piece of writing comes off as boring, it’s often because it lacks tension.

As much as we all dislike tension personally, without the tension, there is no story.

Think of the universal plot line for every story/book/movie you’ve ever loved.

It’s NOT this:

Good thing happens.

Another good thing happens.

Then lots of good things happen forever.

As much as we wish our lives were tension-free, there’s actually no story in that. You’d never watch a movie without tension.

Instead, the universal plot line people come back to again and again is:

Things are good.

Something bad happens (enter death, illness, a villain, a problem).

There’s a struggle between good and evil.

A hero enters.

Good wins.

Hopefully, people live happily ever after.

If there’s no tension in a story, there’s no story.

So what’s the tension point in your message?

If you can find that, you’ve created a plot line the audience will follow and identify with. Because everyone has tension in their lives.

For my message, the focal point was that heaven is a beautiful place…beautiful beyond words.  The tension points in the message became the fact that most of us don’t realize how beautiful it is, and that we experience both beauty and tragedy in this life. Once I pickd up on those points, the message became both more relevant and interesting.

2. Identify, build and solve an actual problem

Most people showing up at your church, at your blog or who open the first pages of your book face problems they don’t know how to solve: marriage problems, money problems, hope problems, forgiveness problems.

When you identify a problem and lead people to a solution (or potential solution), your message immediately becomes relevant.

What I had to do in my message was identify a problem that most people would want to see solved.

In my message, I zone in on why people instinctively hate the idea that there’s a hell or separation in eternity, but I also explain how that resolves some of the tension people find impossible to resolve in their lives right now.

Ironically, your writer’s block problem often gets solved if you can identify and solve someone else’s problem.

3. Find the Why

You can find tension and find a problem to solve but still not have a fascinating message.

Why?

Because you haven’t yet identified why any of it matters.

In any kind of communication, the why is the most important question you can answer for someone.

Why establishes relevance. When you establish the why – a money problem suddenly matters to your listener; when you explain why forgiveness is an issue, or why the existence of hell or the beauty of heaven matter, interest in a subject piques.

The problem with far too many sermons and far too much Christian writing is that they focus on the What and the How and they completely miss the Why.

In this post, I outline the 5 questions I use to evaluate every message as I write it (I got them from Andy Stanley). My two most favourite questions are the questions of why the audience needs to know what they need to know and why they need to do what they need to do.

When you’re stuck, keep asking yourself “Why does any of this matter?” When you can answer that, you’ve got an interesting message.

If you can’t answer why your message matters, your message won’t matter.

4. Look for surprises

Even in an age of declining biblical literacy, familiarity is a problem with preaching from the Bible.

It’s a problem because people assume they know what a text means. And even people with little Christian background assume they know what Christians would say about an issue.

Even as a preacher, you might read a text and miss the shock and surprise of the original text.

To get over this, I try to pretend I’m reading the text for the first time. My text this week was from Revelation 21-22. Here are some surprise angles that could make a sermon on Revelation 21: 1-3 (and this just scratches the surface on three short verses):

John is in exile on the Island of Patmos and he sees this? Why? What would that have meant to him?

Wait…there’s a new earth, not just a new heaven? What????

And why a new heaven? What’s wrong with the old one?

Wait…heaven’s a city? What about the endless golf game in the sky that people imagine?

What’s this bride and groom language all about and why is it so intimate?

Hey, in Greek, the word for ‘dwell’ is ‘tabernacle’…does this go back to the Old Testament and John 1 and then the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (actually, yes it does) and what on earth does this mean?

See…that’s just three verses.

Approach the Bible as a stranger or a child and it pops to life.

5. Talk to someone another writer about your problem

Honestly, when you go to a non-preacher or non-communicator for advice, their advice often isn’t that helpful.

Why?

Because writing problems are usually best understood by other writers.

So sure, you can ask questions of your neighbour or someone else who doesn’t write for a living.

But keep in mind that a quick consult with another writer or preacher can zero in on the problem faster than you might think.

6. Imagine you’re being pulled off the stage…

I don’t know how I developed this trick, but it’s tremendously helpful.

Years ago when I felt stuck in the writing process, I started imagining myself being pulled off the stage in the middle of my message (almost by a cane…like in the comics) and getting 30 seconds to shout out my last line before the message was over.

If I didn’t have anything to shout in that last line, I knew I hadn’t found the main point of my message.

If I could say it, I’d found the tension and the main point of my message.

Last week, the single line was “You should have a better plan for eternity than you do for your next vacation.”

Try this exercise… it works.

7. Come back to it another day

If you find that you’re striking out, again and again, pack it in and come back to it fresh in the morning. I find so many breakthroughs happen this way.

Of course, that doesn’t work if you’re starting your message Saturday morning for Sunday delivery.

But if you work ahead like I do, time becomes your friend as much as deadlines do.

So work ahead. And come back to it fresh after a good night’s sleep.

Want More?

I shared almost all of my communication shortcuts in this 5 part series you can access on my blog for free, including a post on how to deliver a talk without using notes.

I’ve also gotten much better as a communicator not just by practice, but by training. Few resources have helped me as much in the last few years as Preaching Rocket (this is an affiliate link).

I’ve been through their entire coaching programming and it’s been fantastic for me both as a preacher and a conference speaker.

If you want to explore it for yourself, you can try Preaching Rocket for free for 7 days.

In the meantime, what helps you overcome writer’s block and boring messages?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

jerk leader

10 Signs You’re Just a Jerk…Not A Leader

So you lead. You’re in charge…at least you’re in charge of something or hope to be one day.

But how do you know you’re leading effectively…and that you’re not, well, a jerk?

I mean we’ve all been around leaders who are extremely difficult to be around.

Think about how badly leaders are often viewed.

Over the years, boss has even become a bad word. If you’re a pushy kid, you get labeled as bossy and people stay away. Hollywood simply needs to put the word “horrible” in front of the word “bosses” in a movie title and everyone smiles because they can relate. Who hasn’t had a horrible boss?

And yet, sometimes there’s a fine line between being an effective leader and being a jerk. The strength required to be a leader can sometimes push you up against the hard edges of your personality.

When you reach that point you fail. You not only destroy others, you ultimately destroy yourself.

Here are ten signs you’re actually being a jerk, not a leader.

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1. You’ve made the organization all about you

Hey, there’s no doubt your leadership gift probably brings something to the organization or church in which you serve—maybe even a lot.

Leaders, after all, make things happen.

If you want to be a jerk, make the organization about you.

Make sure you’re front and center all the time. Think about how grateful people should be to have you.

Be incredulous at why more people don’t thank you for your leadership. Imagine that you should be paid more.

Just think of  yourself as undervalued and indispensable. Jerks, after all, think it’s all about them.

2. You think that people work for  you

If you’re a jerk and not a true leader, you’ll believe people work for you. 

Contrast that with what the best bosses do. The best bosses think of themselves as working for the people around them.

They prefer to serve rather than be served.

If you keep thinking people work for you, few people will want to work for you.

3. You never say thank you

Jerk leaders rarely say thank you. After all, why would you say thank you when people are just doing their jobs?

Jerk leaders rarely take the time to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they noticed the difference that team member made today.

And why thank the employee who worked late to get the project done? After all, shouldn’t they just be grateful to get a paycheck?

Great bosses often take the time to hand-write a thank you note.

They high five people.

They look team members in the eye and tell them how much they appreciate them.

They put their arm around people and say thanks.

Great leaders realize nobody has to work for them. Which is why people do.

4. You’re demanding

One sure way to be a jerk is to demand things of people.

It’s one thing to have high standards (great leaders have high standards), but to remain a jerk, make sure you always communicate those standards in a way that demeans people.

Always focus on what you want from people. Never think about what you want for people.

5. You keep the perks of leadership to yourself

Leadership does have perks. Maybe you know some people other folks would love to connect with.

Maybe you get the nicer office or have a slightly bigger budget than others. Or people send you gift cards once in a while because you’re the boss man. Or you have a nice parking space (which you shouldn’t by the way… here’s why).

To stay a jerk, just make sure you never share anything with anyone. Keep it all to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t be generous.

6. You keep yourself front and center

If you’re a jerk leader, you think you’re so valuable to the organization (see point 1) that you do whatever it takes to be at the center of everything at all times.

You don’t develop young talent. You’re too insecure to share your platform with others. You never push other people into the spotlight. (Insecurity causes a lot of leadership problems by the way. Here are 5.)

You’re never going to retire anyway, or even if you do, it doesn’t really matter if the organization crumbles when you go, does it?

Besides, no one else on your team has dreams, gifts or hopes. Why would you pay attention to that?

Think about it: Great leaders don’t build platforms; they build people.

7. You take the credit and assign the blame

If you’re a jerk leader, there are two surefire ways to anger your team.

First, take all of the credit for anything good that happens in your organization.

Make sure you mention how it was your idea and whatever you do, don’t mention your team or how hard they worked on the project.

Second, when things go off the rails, wash your hands of it. Look surprised and then appear concerned.

Blame something else.

Blame someone else.

Blame anything else.

You weren’t responsible anyway. Except for all of the good things, of course.

8. You never have your team’s back

Is there really any value in public loyalty? Didn’t think so.

If you want to alienate your team, speak poorly of them when they’re not in the room.

For example, when you disagree with a decision a team member made, make sure you tell anyone who will listen how much you disagreed with it.

And when someone complains to you about what a team member did, make sure you pull them aside and in hushed tones tell them how disappointed you were with their decision too, and that you don’t understand why they would do that.

For bonus points, never privately speak to the person with whom you disagree. Just smile when you see them.

Great leaders don’t always agree, but they always disagree privately behind closed doors and they support you publicly, no matter what. That builds a team.

As Andy Stanley says, great leaders realize that public loyalty buys you private leverage.

9. You make all the decisions

One sure sign of a jerk leader is that you infuriate other leaders on your team by personally making as many decisions as possible.

You never let them exercise their leadership gifts or become thinkers in their own right.

And when they do make decisions on their own, you meddle frequently.

You even pull out your pocket veto regularly. Especially if you’re acting on partial information and don’t have the whole story.

10. You act like a martyr

When your team is angry with you (as they should be), one sure sign you’ve moved to the jerk column is that you pull out the martyr card.

Nobody has it as hard as you do. True?

Nobody is as misunderstood.

I mean, who puts in as many hours for a thankless job? And who really understands you?

Nobody. Of course.

To keep jerk status, make sure you tell everyone how hard you work, how lonely leadership is and how you haven’t taken a vacation in X years.

Great leaders realize leadership has a cost, but they don’t expect others to share it. This is exactly why many people are willing to share the cost with a great leader.

The Jerk Inside Me

How do I know jerk leadership so well?

Because I have a jerk inside of me I need to suppress every day. My guess is you might too.

Fortunately, Jesus introduces a completely different paradigm for leadership.

If you want to be a Christ-like leader, just do the opposite of these ten things. You’ll be well on your way.

And Christ promises to help you.

If you’re like me, it takes supernatural strength to lead in a Christ-like manner. But there’s no better way to lead a team (or your family).

Include Your Team on Decision Making

If you want to include your team on decision making and help them own the challenges before you, my last book (Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow) is 100% designed to facilitate team discussion and problem-solving on the biggest issues facing church leaders today.

Plus there’s even a full chapter on creating a healthy team.

You can buy the book and/or the team edition video series (for team discussion) here.

Want to see a sample? Download a free chapter here.

What Do You Think?

What other characteristics of jerk leaders have you seen?

How is this battle at work in your life?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

people pleasing

How People-Pleasing Crushes Your Leadership Potential

Ever wonder how your leadership potential gets crushed? How you end up stalling out as a leader with your dreams stifled and your future looking far less exciting than you hoped for?

It happens more easily than you think.

And it often happens despite a leader’s best intentions.

In fact, there’s a good chance that even today, you’re wrestling with the very dynamics that ultimately thwart your leadership potential.

What kills your leadership potential more than just about anything?

I’ll walk you through a downward spiral many leaders have encountered. It starts innocently enough but ends rather tragically.

How does it happen?

You’d be surprised. Because you come by it so honestly.

shutterstock_373148281We’re All Afraid of Rejection

So let me guess, you’re almost always working hard on a new idea. You:

Sweat over it.

Pray over it.

Revise it.

Perfect it.

And you hope—really hope—that when your idea is unveiled, people will like it.

Before you dismiss that as a trivial observation, ask yourself: Have you ever unveiled an idea or project you sincerely hoped people wouldn’t like?

I didn’t think so.

The desire to have your proposal accepted is pretty universal, isn’t it?

Almost every leader is afraid of one thing: rejection.

And not just personal rejection, but the rejection of your ideas as well.

Your hopes. Your strategies. Your dreams.

So you do what you can to make people happy… to get them to buy in.

And therein lies the trap.

So This is What You Do

Because we’re all afraid of rejection, you and I revise our ideas until we think they have the greatest chance of acceptance.

And in principle, that’s a good idea. Who wants to introduce something that ultimately only 5 people on planet earth are going to find helpful?

But often, in the process of trying to get people to buy into your initiative, you take the edges off of it.

You dilute it.

You compromise.

You talk about what’s possible, not about what’s best.

And then you die a little inside.

Then This Happens

So… you introduce your slightly watered-down idea/product/change/innovation hoping people will applaud wildly.

Except they don’t. People still don’t like it.

You hear from the critics.

A few people leave.

More people threaten to leave.

You grow more scared.

So you retreat.

You revise your plan. You sand more of the edges off. You compromise more. You try to offend as few people as possible.

And then you die a little more inside.

Except now, your product becomes, literally, unremarkable.

Criticism, remember, is a remark, and a remark indicates you might have a truly remarkable idea.

Can you imagine what might have happened had you gone with your original stellar idea you were afraid to even say out loud???

Do you see what you often do when you water down your bold changes as a result of criticism? You change a remarkable initiative into an unremarkable one.

Being inoffensive ultimately makes you ineffective.

And Suddenly You’re on the Fastest Path To Irrelevance

That’s why far too many leaders end in a place where they are too afraid to be bold. Too afraid to try something new. Too afraid to even dream.

They reduce potentially great initiatives to the least offensive form they can find, hoping everyone will buy in.

Except your ability to attract new people just went out the window.

The only people who really like your new idea are a small core of the people who already liked your old idea…and any growth potential is jettisoned.

Here’s the lesson far too many leaders never learn about trying to offend as few people as possible:

If you attempt to offend no one, you will eventually become irrelevant to everyone.

Where does this land you as a leader?

With worship services that are bland enough to inspire no one, including the 40 or 400 people who are there but who strangely want to keep it that way.

Adopting mission statements so drab they could have been lifted from an HR manual.

With a vision for the future that looks far too much like the past.

It’s not that difficult to head down the path to irrelevance.

When your vision for the future looks too much like the past, you need a new vision. And that’s where you’ll end up if people-pleasing causes you to lose your courage.

Lead Boldly

So what do you do?

Four things can help a leader usher in bolder change and avoid irrelevance without becoming a brash, arrogant leader.

1. Be bold

Don’t stop dreaming. Introduce some bolder changes. The problem with incremental change is that it brings incremental results.

So be bold. Bolder change will bring bolder results.

2. Lead with humility

No one likes an arrogant person; even fewer people like an arrogant leader. Being bold is not a licence to offend.

Leading from a place of humility can help you broker change far better than leading from a place of arrogance.

3. Take the long view

A key difference between leaders who successfully navigate change and those who don’t is the ability to stick out the initial waves of criticism.

The fact that some people don’t like your change is natural. Take the long view and realize this too shall pass.

Think about it: surprisingly, your insistence on pleasing people will ultimately cause you to disappoint people.

4. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep

If you focus on the 10% of people who don’t like the change, you will lose the thousands of people you can reach by making the change.

Again, this is not an excuse to be stubborn, arrogant or bullying.

But it is permission to be courageous.

To be true to your convictions, and to lead with conviction and even some occasional daring, I share more specific strategies on how to effectively lead change here.

If your mission is as important as you say it is, it deserves your best leadership and courage.

My Guess Is…

…that you are not trying to be ineffective.

It’s just that the gravitational pull we all feel in leadership to please everybody is almost always counterproductive.

Sometimes, you even end up being nothing to nobody.

So what’s keeping you back from acting on your best strategy?

What’s keeping you back from being more daring?

Is it the desire to be liked? The fear of being rejected? The unwillingness to offend?

I understand that…but just know what’s at stake.

To be inoffensive is to be ineffective.

Sometimes, you need to push through a controversial proposal to get to the other side.

In your attempt to offend no one, you just might become irrelevant to everyone.

Want More?

I wrote about three powerful truths about likability and leadership in this post.

If you’re wondering what issues the church needs to tackle to be effective and reach people, I devoted my most recent book, Lasting Impact, to 7 pivotal issues every church leader needs to address. You can learn more about Lasting Impact here.

What do you think?

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