From Mission

advice to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s

25 Random Pieces of Advice for Leaders in Their 20s, 30s or 40s

I may or may not have a big birthday this week. Okay…I may.

Believe it or not, turning 50 has not been as traumatic as I thought it might be. Actually, it’s been remarkably satisfying and gratitude-inducing. I have so much for which I’m thankful.

If you’re a younger reader (which most of you are), I have some great news. At 50, I have as much or more energy than I did a decade or two ago, a much better sense of who God created me to be, and I’m surrounded by people I don’t deserve. And I’m honestly more excited by the next 20 years than I’ve ever been about the future.

But maybe the best part of turning 50? You see things you just couldn’t see at 20, 30, or 40. Okay, maybe you can see them. I couldn’t.  At least not as clearly.

In light of that, what follows are life and leadership tips I picked up in my 20s, 30s and 40s that I’m so thankful I did.

How you live your life up to age 50 likely matters more than you think.

advice to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s

How You Live Your 20s, 30s or 40s Matters

I was recently talking to a friend who had turned 50 a couple years ahead of me. He surprised me by saying that your 50s and are largely pre-determined by how well you lived your 30s and 40s.

Live your 30s and 40s well, and your 50s turn out great.

Live them poorly, and all the problems and issues you never resolved when you were younger sabotage your later years, even beyond your 50s.

When he said that, I gulped. Literally.

I’d seen that reality so many times in my life but never connected the dots.

So in an attempt to help you live your 20s, 30s and 40s well, here 25 random pieces of advice I hope can help.

1. Deal with your issues early

You have issues. Everyone does.

As tempting as it is to believe otherwise, it’s not your wife, husband, kids or job who are causing all the pain in your life. You are the common denominator in everything that’s happened to you. So deal with you.

Go see a trained Christian counsellor. Hire a coach. Read some books. Do what it takes to deal with your junk.

2. Invest in coaches and counsellors who make you better

On that note, most people who need counselling say they can’t afford it. It’s like couples who can’t afford a date night but then spend thousands of dollars on divorce later because their relationship fell apart.

If you need counselling to deal with issues, it’s an investment. Ditto with coaches who can bring out the best in you.

It’s not just an investment in you. It’s an investment in everyone you impact.

3. Get off the fence

Indecision plagues too many people.

Make the best decision you can with the information you have, then humbly pursue it with everything you’ve got.

4. Study and practice faithfulness

Faithfulness is rare. Not just in marriage, but also in life.

Culture teaches us to dispose of anything or anyone we don’t like.

So do the opposite.

Learn how to be consistent, loyal, and steadfast, holding to what you know is right even when you feel like doing the opposite.

5. Live like God loves you and everything you read in the Bible is true

Most people wish someone loved them unconditionally. Someone does.

So live like it.

And while you’re at it, live like everything you read in the Bible is true. Doubt your doubts. You won’t regret it.

6. Be generous when you have no money

Don’t fall for the lie that you will be generous one day when you have money. If you’re not generous now, you won’t be generous then.

Practice generosity with every dollar you receive and everything you have. Then if you ever have money or possessions, they won’t own you.

You will have released their grip from your life long ago. And you will look behind you and already see you’ve been able to make more of a difference than you imagined.

7. Choose a few awesome friends and stick with them

Friendships can be confusing in your 20s, 30s and 40s. Friendship circles change when you leave school, get married and even change jobs.

In the midst of all that change, find a few friends and stick with them for life.

Most people can only handle 5 really close relationships in their life. Choose those 5 well and build into those relationships deeply.

8. Cultivate a circle of people around you who make you better

In the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to intentionally pursue friendships and relationships with people who are smarter, more skilled and simply ‘better’ than me.

One of the best ways to become a better person and leader is to spend time with people who are better than you.

9. Get comfortable being around people who are smarter than you

Deal with your insecurities. Get comfortable being around people who are smarter than you.

It will make you better, but it’s also the key to creating an exceptional team.

If you always have to be the smartest person in the room, you’ll eventually end up in a pretty vacuous room.

10. Relentlessly pursue self-awareness

Self-aware people make the best leaders and frankly, are the easiest people to hang out with in life. Chances are your favourite people are people who are deeply self-aware.

But self-awareness doesn’t come naturally. I’m naturally blind to the impact I have on other people around me.  So are you. If you want more on this issue, here are 4 things self-aware leaders know that others don’t.

11. Make peace with your weaknesses

You’ll never be great at everything.

The sooner you get used to that, the better off you’ll be. Eventually you’ll stop trying to cover up and stop feeling so bad about yourself. That’s progress.

12. Pour increasing amounts of energy into your strengths

Once you realize you’re only great at a few things, you’re free to become even greater at them.

Pour your time, energy and resources into what you do very best. That’s the difference between being good at something and being best in the world.

13. Get comfortable with solitude

Solitude is a thoughtful leader’s best friend. It also is a key to self-awareness.

If you really want to grow as a person and as a leader, and grow in your relationship with God, get comfortable with solitude. I wrote more about solitude and how to practice it here.

14. Wrestle down your pride

Pride is ugly. It gets you into trouble again and again.

The only person to whom your pride looks appealing is you. Think about it…you don’t like pride in anyone but yourself.

So pray it out. Beat it out. Do what you need to do to wrestle it down.

15. Fight cynicism

The more you know, the harder it gets to stay hopeful (the Scripture points this out by the way).

Cynics never change the world; they just tell you why the world doesn’t change.

Don’t be one. Check the cynicism that’s growing inside you.

16. Kill selfish ambition

Ambition isn’t bad. In fact, it can change the world.

Selfish ambition is bad. It can destroy the world.

So be ambitious, but be ambitious for the sake of a cause that’s far bigger than you are.

17. Don’t give into stupid temptations that will come your way

You will be tempted to do stupid things. Don’t.

Don’t have an affair, take short cuts or cheat to get ahead.

It’s so not worth it.

18. Find the high road and live on it

The high road is the hard road. But it’s the best road.

People will try to pull you off the high road again and again. Don’t.

Take it. Every time.

19. Don’t wrestle with a pig

Conversely, the low road has virtually no reward.

Years ago someone dropped this gem on me.

Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig liked it.

So so true.

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

Competency is not the main key to success. Character is.

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

20. Persevere through the dry seasons

Your time with God will go flat. Sometimes you’ll think what you believe is a farce.

Even marriage, family and friends go through seasons where everything seems boring.

Hang in there. Your emotions eventually catch up with your obedience. So be obedient.

21. Discover what refuels you and do more of it

Some things give you energy in life, some things drain you.

Figure out what refuels you. Then do more of it.

Your choice, over the long run, is self-care or self-medication. Choose self-care.

22. Book appointments with yourself

Your calendar will naturally fill up with urgent things other people believe are important.

And you will watch a decade or more pass by without doing anything really significant.

Book appointments with yourself to do what really matters, whether that’s taking a day off, being with your family, writing an important talk, or taking time to think.

Then when someone asks you if you’re busy, you can truthfully say “I’d love to help, but I have a commitment.”

23. Trust again

Your heart will get mangled and you’ll be tempted to stop trusting people altogether.

Don’t.

Trust again. Hope again. Believe again.

You’ll be so glad you did.

24. Be bold

Be bolder than you think you should be.

Too many dreams die of timidity.

25. Don’t let fear win

Yep…you’re afraid.

Go for it anyway.

Fear gets the best of far too many leaders. Don’t let it get the best of you.

What About You?

There’s a lot more I could have written about, but 25 random piece of advice is enough for now.

You’ve probably got some great advice too. I’d love to hear it. That’s what the comments are for. Scroll down and leave one. :)

performance review

9 Things I Learned From My Most Recent Performance Review

Remember report card time?

It always freaked me out a bit. Teachers would get to evaluate my life and tell me how well I was doing (or not doing). I always had a love/hate relationship with report cards. I loved them when I liked the results…not so much when I didn’t. I especially didn’t like them when they told the truth about some areas I needed to work on.

And yet as a young leader, I began to crave feedback. When I was in law, within a month of starting at the firm I knocked on a senior partner’s door and asked for an evaluation. Why? Because I’d never worked in law before and had no idea whether I was doing a good job or not. By that time I’d figured out feedback was critical to leadership.

And yet I still think annual performance evaluations or 360˚ reviews can be intimidating for many leaders. It hurts to hear the truth sometimes.

And we’ve all heard of leaders who have carefully created a climate in which no one reviews them, formally or informally. They utilize their power to become unapproachable. Keep that up long enough and people stop bothering.

If you’ve ever done that as a leader, you might think you’re winning, but you’re not; you’re losing.

Not having your performance assessed is a terrible mistake unless you have zero interest in growing as a leader, Christian or human being. Oh…and it’s also a great strategy if you want all the good leaders around you to leave.

But other than that, it’s not advisable.

As nerve wracking as a performance review can be, you can learn so much from it. Here’s how.

performance review

9 Things I Learned

Here are 9 things I learned during my recent performance review:

1. The more open you are, the more you will grow

Performance evaluations are gifts. You need to see them that way. Yes, the fact that you are not perfect will hurt. But the more open you are, the more you will grow.

Saying a prayer as simple as “God show me what you are saying to me in this and help me to grow as a leader” can really help you get the most out of an assessment.

2. The truth is a leader’s best friend

One of the best things you can seek as a leader is the truth—as beautiful, awkward or disappointing as it may be.

The truth is a leader’s best friend, even if it hurts.

So seek it. Crave it. Long for it.

When people criticize you, see it as a gift.

If you have trouble hearing criticism and are always defensive, here are 5 ways to help criticism sting less.

3. The more defensive you are, the less people will tell you the truth

Defensiveness kills great leadership and great leaders.

Although the performance assessment tool we use (keep reading for details) gives people ‘anonymous’ or blind feedback options, if you create a culture of fear around you, people won’t want to give you ‘anonymous’ feedback in case they think you can figure out wrote what.

This atmosphere around you starts long before any review.

The less defensive you are as a leader, the more people will tell you the truth. And, remember, the truth is your friend.

4. You will always have weaknesses

As much as you might hate it, you will always have weaknesses. For some reason I want to be a perfect leader.

But I’m not. I’m flawed.

Get used to it. And ask God and others What can I learn from my weaknesses? 

5. Your weaknesses aren’t things you should brag about

Sometimes you hear leaders brag about their weaknesses (as in “I don’t like people at all.”)

While that can be funny, the fact that you can’t organize your way out of a wet paper bag or that you alienate people is probably not something to brag about. It can be great to acknowledge. Great to let people know you need their help.

But it’s not a badge of honour.

6. Your strength has a shadowside

Everyone’s personality and profile works this way…your strength generates an opposing weakness.

For example, in my case, results and performance dominate my top ten strengths.

But being an achievement-oriented person means sometimes I can leave people in the dust if I don’t work at it.

Many ‘results’ people struggle relationally. And many relational people struggle to get high performance results.

I have worked relentlessly on this weakness, but my leadership coach has helped me see that this is something I will always have to work on.

It’s a tension to be managed. I may never ‘solve’ this one. Hopefully I’ll just gradually get somewhat better each year.

7. Your greatest progress will come from the feedback you like least

Some of the comments you receive might make you wince…maybe even want to bury them.

Don’t.

Your greatest progress as a leader will come from the feedback you like least. Embrace them as a gift from God. Thank him for the growth opportunity.

8. Your team will benefit if you talk about the good and the bad

Sometimes you feel like deep-sixing things like performance reports. Instead, why not be open about them?

I’m going to share mine with my direct reports and elders and ask them to tell me how I can learn and grow from them.

This will do two things. First, it will give me better insight into how my leadership impacts them, both good and bad.

Second, it will give them greater insight into what I’m best at and worst at, and we can position our church to better build into my strengths and minimize the impact of my weaknesses.

You want your organization to reflect a leader’s strengths, not his or her weaknesses.

9. Run even harder into your strengths

Performance reviews are also like report cards in the sense that if you got a 92% in English and a 56% in math, you might be tempted to dump any homework on English to focus exclusively on math.

At some point you need to admit to yourself, I will probably never win the prize in math. I need to pass, but I won’t be a world class leader.

But I have a shot at being brilliant at English.

So go be brilliant.

You have a gift. Develop it. Tune it, hone it, sharpen it and master it.

As for your weakness? Be sensitive to how your weaknesses impact others.

Maybe great leadership is this: Fully develop your strengths. Work at taking the sharp edges off your weaknesses.

The Performance Assessment Tool We Use

In case you were wondering, our church uses the RightPath 360˚ for our most thorough leadership review. Essentially, you get your direct reports, managers, peers and a few outside voices of people who know you to give extensive feedback on your leadership in the areas of

Results

Emotional Intelligence

Trust

Development of Others

One thing I love about a RightPath 360˚ is that it not assesses you numerically on a matrix, but it gives ample space for your reviewers to leave open comments.

Those are tremendous gifts if you’re interested in growing. You actually learn what other people really think of you.

What About You?

What are you learning about performance reviews, leading team and being open to criticism and correction as a leader?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t

There’s a lot of church bashing that happens these days. I get that. Some of it is deserved.

Like me, maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of people feel justified in dismissing the church as anything between a complete disappointment and otherwise useless.

Doubtless people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that I feel terrible.

But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.

So in the hopes of clarifying a few things and helping us all move through whatever hang ups might be lingering, here are 5 things people blame their church for…but shouldn’t.

1. The church didn’t stop you from growing spiritually

Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully I’ll grow!

I’ve heard this so many times at one point I believed the logic. Until I realized that we were this person’s fifth church in 6 years, and they didn’t grow at any of them. Which makes you ask the question…is it really the church, or could it be them?

I came to the realization years ago that I’m responsible for my spiritual growth. Nobody can make me grow. And honestly, no one can keep me from growing because no one can actually control my thoughts, my heart and my mind. I can offer them to God in free surrender whenever I want.

Understand, the church can help, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

2. The church didn’t burn you out

You meet a lot of people in ministry, both paid and volunteer, who will tell you the church burned them out. As someone who has burned out while leading a church, it would be tempting for me to say “For sure…my church burned me out. You should see the demands people made on me as a pastor and leader!”

But I would never say that.

You know who burned me out?

I did. 

I am responsible for my burnout. I pushed too hard for too long. I didn’t deal with underlying issues. I burned myself out.

Now, granted, I think ministry can be confusing, and I think it’s easier to burn out in ministry than in other vocations (for the reasons why that is, read this post).

But I’m responsible. And so, honestly, are you. For more on burnout, start with this post.

3. The church didn’t make you cynical

I’ve heard many Christians say “I’m so cynical after working at/attending several churches.”

And for sure, any student of human nature can become cynical.

But the church didn’t make you cynical. You let your heart grow hard. You chose to believe certain things about people, about God, about life, and it built a crust around something that used to be alive and vibrant.

The biggest challenge in life is to see life for what it really is but keeping your heart fully engaged. God loves to help people do that.

I fight cynicism daily. And if anyone makes me cynical, it’s me…not you, not God, not culture, not the church. I want my heart to be alive and celebrating each day. That’s a choice I make with God’s help.

4. The church didn’t cause your unforgiveness

It’s easy to hold a grudge. Get hurt (and yes, I’ve been hurt by people in the church too) and hang onto it long enough, and grudges will form.

Soon you’ll not want to hear someone’s name, let alone run into them in the supermarket.

Too many people in the church or who walked away from the church carry unforgiveness and blame the church for it.

What are you hanging onto from a bad church experience that you need to let go of?

Forgiveness is the one of most Christian things people can do. Yet it’s what far too many Christians withhold from one another.

I love how Mark Twain phrased it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

5. The church didn’t make you lose your faith

I hesitate to write this one. I’m a church leader. I do everything I can to help people find faith in Jesus Christ.

I also realize I’m far from perfect, that our church is not perfect, and that there never will be perfection on this side of heaven.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say “I went to church but it was so bad/so hypocritical/so shallow I lost my faith.” I realize we don’t always do a good job. In fact, sometimes churches do a terrible job. Sometimes I do a terrible job.

But as you’ve seen throughout this piece, nobody else makes you lose your faith. That was or is a choice you made. It is.

And it’s a choice I make every day. To believe when there are more than a few reasons not to. To love when people don’t love me back. To forgive when it’s easier to hang on to the hurt. To trust when there’s probably a few reasons to stop trusting.

So if you want to believe again…believe again.

A Challenge

Now let me give you a challenge. I realize many of you have been hurt by the church. I realize many of you have grown cynical. And that’s true of people who have left the church and who are in the church.

Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk away or be endlessly critical.

The reason I lead a church is because I believe Jesus designed the church to be the hope of the world. Churches are imperfect organizations, but they’re also chosen organizations. We’re on a mission given by Christ. We’re his chosen instrument.

I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The world has enough cynics and critics.

We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.

Would you be one of them? Maybe get involved again? Or join a church and decide to work toward a better future? Or start a church of your own? That would be incredible. Really…it would! We need more optimists and more people ready to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear what you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and how you’ve decided to make a difference.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

cynics; trolls; leadership

Take Back the Internet: How Good People Can Beat the Cynics and the Trolls

You ever read the comment section on a blog or on your favourite news site?

I’m not a ranter, but I have to tell you, sometimes I find the comments section of many sites discouraging…even depressing. It’s like the mean people took over the internet. I’d link to some that bother me, but then I’d just be taking us all down and I really don’t want to do that.

I guess I’m a little attuned to this right now because of the massive response to this post recently that spawned hundreds of comments on my site in a few days. I heard some incredible encouragement from many commenters, but the cynics and the trolls also showed up in good number.

The trolls and cynics have gotten bad enough on the internet that several well known bloggers have discontinued comments altogether on their blogs. They have various reasons, and as someone who has to wade through hundreds of comments a month on this site, I completely understand that.

If I ever cut comments here, it would be because the quality discussion is too often hijacked by the trolls and cynics.

But I don’t want to close my comments section, even though it means I have to take extra time on the comments when addressing sensitive issues like this. Why?

Because I really value dialogue from good people.  Because I learn from readers like you. Because I actually value different perspectives, not just my own. And I should say, so many of you have been SO encouraging. Thanks for being awesome like that. In fact, when I sent out a short version of this article to my email subscribers last week, the reaction was SO positive many said “please turn this into a blog post”. So I did.

So here we go: I don’t want the cynics and the trolls to win. I trust you don’t either, right?

Of course this is all bigger than just blogging. My guess is the cynics and trolls have gotten you down more than a few times in life and leadership.

What do you do?

cynics; trolls; leadership

How Instant Access to Everything has Empowered Cynics and Trolls

Remember the days where cynics and trolls had to interact in front of real people? They’d have to say something in the lunch room in the presence of their co-workers, or line up at the microphone at a meeting to be heard?

Or remember when, pre-chat rooms and social media, when they had to use email to complain, which means they pretty much had to use their real name and expect a real response by a real person?

Ah, those were the days. There was a social check in that…the idea that you were part of a community where people actually interacted with each other.

But now, emboldened by a keyboard and seemingly endless amounts of time, they seem quite dedicated to spreading hopelessness and misery.

Social media and comments threads now gives cynics instant access to anyone who will let them rant, groan and show the rest of the world how much they think they know.

Apparently they have the time, doing little productive with their lives.

As a result of all this, the collective dialogue is suffering:

We know more but think less.

We’ve convinced ourselves that opinion beats dialogue.

Rudeness has become a substitute for disagreement.

That can’t win. Personally, I am addicted to hope, as I know many of you are, awesome people.

The Antidote to Trolls and Cynics

So what can you and I do?

Naturally, you can edit and even ban the cynics and trolls. I try to ban as few people as possible, but every month I end up banning a few people from commenting on my site who honestly just want to pick fights (while I do it reluctantly, it’s my blog and I don’t apologize. It’s like life: you can be rude in my house, but do it a few times and you won’t be invited back.) And sometimes I delete comments from naysayers who have nothing constructive to add.

But you and I can do much better than that. Much better.

I believe there are far more good leaders and good people than there are cynics and trolls.

Here’s the tension: our silence is killing us and fuelling them.

The antidote to cynics and trolls is intelligent, hope-filled conversation by good people.

So, I’m asking you to be a force of good this week by doing two things:

1. Leave an intelligent, helpful, constructive comment to a blog or website this week

It doesn’t have to be on my site (although I’d welcome that, of course), but just leave one somewhere to let humanity know all hope is not lost. Okay?

None of this means you have to agree with the writer (discussion and debate help us all learn), but courteous, grace-filled thoughtful debate moves the dialogue and the mission forward. I KNOW that’s what you bring to the conversation.

Chances are you just think your voice doesn’t matter much. I promise you, it does.

2. Say something helpful and constructive in face to face conversations

Conversations go south in real life all the time. What do many good people and even good leaders do in moments like that? We simply shut down.

Don’t.

Say something helpful, something intelligent, something heartfelt, something constructive. Look to leave the dialogue and the world a better place.

And if you encounter a cynic or troll who says something like “X are just useless places run by selfish people”, look them straight in the eye and ask this question: Really? And just sound surprised.

Most cynics and trolls don’t know what to do with a real person who lives with hope. And if they get rude, just say “I’m sorry, you can’t talk to me that way” and then go on with your intelligent conversation with the other good people in the room.

So would you speak up today?

Your voice is exactly what this world needs right now. And there are far more of you than there are of them.

What are you learning about trolls and cynics?

Scroll down and leave an (intelligent) comment. :)

10 Predictions About the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns

Every generation experiences change.

But sometimes you sense you’re in the midst of truly radical change, the kind that happens only every few centuries. Increasingly, I think we’re in such a moment now.

Those of us in in Western culture who are over age 30 were born into a culture that could conceivably still be called Christian. Now, as David Kinnaman at the Barna Group has shown, even in America, people who are churchless (having no church affiliation) will soon eclipse the churched.

In addition, 48% of Millennials (born between 1984-2002) can be called post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview.

This post is part 4 of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often. Here are the other parts of the series (including two in-depth leadership podcast interviews):

Part 1: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Less Often

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

I think the change we’re seeing around us might one day be viewed on the same level as what happened to the church after Constantine’s conversion or after the invention of the printing press. Whatever the change looks like when it’s done, it will register as a seismic shift from what we’ve known.

So what will the future church be like? And how should you and I respond?

Predictions…Really?

Okay, before we get going, a few things.

I realize making predictions can be a dangerous thing. Maybe even a bit ridiculous . But I want to offer a few thoughts because I’m passionate about the mission of the church.

So, borne out of a love for the gathered church, I offer a few thoughts. Consider it thinking in pencil, not ink.

While no one’s really sure of what’s ahead, talking about it at least allows us to position our churches for impact in a changing world.

10 Predictions About the Future Church

So what’s likely for the future church? Here are 10 things I see.

1. The potential to gain is still greater than the potential to lose

Every time there is a change in history, there’s potential to gain and potential to lose.

I believe the potential to gain is greater than the potential to lose. Why?

As despairing or as cynical as some might be (sometimes understandably) over the church’s future, we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

It will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us. We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share his love for a broken world.

As a result, the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated.

2. Churches that love their model more than the mission will die

That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model.

When the car was invented, it quick took over from the horse and buggy. Horse and buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation actually exploded. Suddenly average people could travel at a level they never could before.

The mission is travel. The model is a buggy, or car, or motorcycle, or jet.

Look at the changes in the publishing, music and even photography industry in the last few years.

See a trend? The mission is reading. It’s music. It’s photography. The model always shifts….moving from things like 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs to MP3s and now streaming audio and video.

Companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak).

Churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in our model.

3. The gathered church is here to stay

Read the comments on this blog or any other church leader blog and you would think that some Christians believe the best thing to do is to give up on Christian gatherings of any kind.

This is naive.

While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. Which is why there will always be an organized church of some form.

So while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.

4. Consumer Christianity will die and a more selfless discipleship will emerge

Consumer Christianity asks What can I get from God? It asks, What’s in it for me?

That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience and each other according to our preferences and whims. In many respects, even many critics of the church who have left have done so under the pull of consumer Christianity because ‘nothing’ meets their needs.

All of this is antithetical to the Gospel, which calls us to die to ourselves—to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.

As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Sure, we will still have to make decisions about music, gathering times and even some distinctions about what we believe, but the tone will be different.  When you’re no longer focused on yourself and your viewpoint, a new tone emerges.

5. Sundays will become more about what we give than what we get

The death of consumer Christianity will change our gatherings.

Our gatherings will become less about us and more about Jesus and the world he loves.  Rather than a gathering of the already-convinced, the churches that remain will be decidedly outsider-focused. And word will be supplemented with deeds.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in every day life and attending to their spiritual well being.

This is the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church

That’s why I’m very excited to be part of a group of churches that has, at its heart, the desire to create churches unchurched people love to attend. While the expression of what that looks like may change, the intent will not.

6. Attendance will no longer drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance

Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.

In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain.

If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fuelled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift.

7. Simplified ministries will complement people’s lives, not compete with people’s lives

For years, the assumption has been that the more a church grew, the more activity it would offer.

The challenge, of course, is that church can easily end up burning people out. In some cases, people end up with no life except church life. Some churches offer so many programs for families that families don’t even have a chance to be families.

The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world.

Churches that focus their energies on the few things the church can uniquely do best will emerge as the most effective churches moving forward. Simplified churches will complement people’s witness, not compete with people’s witness.

8. Online church will supplement the journey but not become the journey

There’s a big discussion right now around online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church.

But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey. I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the greatest relationships people can have.

Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together.

So it is with Jesus, people and the church.

9. Online church will become more of a front door than a back door

There’s no question that today online church has become a back door for Christians who are done with attending church.

While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point.

Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church and online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Christianity is all about.

In the same way you purchase almost nothing without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out online first, a church’s online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal connection with Christ and ultimately the gathered church.

10. Gatherings will be smaller and larger at the same time

While many might think the mega-church is dead, it’s not. And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness.

There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches.

We will likely see large churches get larger. Multisite will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission.

At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as millennials and others seek tighter connections and groups. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure.

We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.

What Do You See?

Ultimately, I have a lot of hope for the future church. I hope you do too. The mission is too important to feel otherwise.

If you want some even more specific changes I think will characterize the future church (including a few not covered here), check out this post.

In the meantime, what do you see?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often

It comes up in a surprising number of conversations these days. And no one’s quite sure how to respond to it.

The issue? Even committed church attenders are attending church less often.

Sure, the trend has been happening for years (gone are the days when people attended 50 out of 52 Sundays), but the issue is reaching a tipping point in the church today.

I first wrote about this two years ago in a post called 7 Ways to Respond as People Attend Church Less Often. In the last 24 months, the conversation has come up far more often and, to many leaders, feels much more urgent.

This isn’t a post about why people have left the church (that’s a different subject.) This is the first in a series of posts about church attenders who love God, appreciate the local church and are even involved in the local church, but who simply attend less often.

This post is the first part of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often:

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 4: 10 Predictions About the Future Church And Shifting Attendance Patterns

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

So why all this attention?

This trend isn’t going away…in fact (as the podcasts will show) it’s accelerating,

It impacts almost every church regardless of size, denomination or even location.

It probably marks a seismic shift in how the church will do ministry in the future.

Of course, church attendance is never the goal. But attendance a sign of something deeper that every church leader is going to have to wrestle with over the next few years.

The first key to addressing what’s happening is to understand what’s happening.

So…why are even committed attenders attending less often? There are at least 10 reasons.

1. Greater affluence

Money gives people options.

If your church is at all engaging the middle class, the upper middle class, or a suburban demographic, an interesting trend is developing. The middle class is shrinking, but as this New York Times report shows,  it’s shrinking (in part) because more of the middle class is becoming upper class. Both US and Canadian personal disposable incomes are at all time highs.

There are simply more affluent people than there were decades ago, which may in part explain why so many “average’ people indulge their obsessions with granite counter tops, designer homes and decent cars, even without being mega-wealthy.

Naturally, this leaves a huge theological void about ministry to and with the poor, but it helps explain what’s actually happening in the suburbs and increasingly with the re-urbanization of many cities as the affluent move back downtown. Please…I’m not arguing things should be this way. I’m simply showing that this seems to be what’s happening.

And again…people with money have options. Technology options. Travel options. Options for their kids. And, arguably, that affluence may be one of the factors moving them further away from a committed engagement to the mission of the local church. It’s perhaps fuelling some of the reasons outlined below.

2. Higher focus on kids’ activities

A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel.

Many of those sports happen on weekends. And affluent parents are choosing sports over church.

It’s as simple as that.

3. More travel

Despite a wobbly economy, travel is on the rise, both for business and pleasure.

More and more families of various ages travel for leisure, even if it’s just out of town to go camping or to a friend’s place for the weekend or a weekend at the lake.

And when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church.

4. Blended and single parent families

Fortunately, more and more blended families and single parent families are finding a home in church.

So how does this translate into attendance patterns?

Church leaders need to remember that when custody is shared in a family situation, ‘perfect’ attendance for a kid or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

Similarly, while the affluent might not be in church because of access to reliable transportation, single parents (who, not always, but often, struggle more financially) might not be in church because they lack access to reliable transportation.

So here’s the strange twist. People who have a car are often not in church because they have a car. People who want to be in church are often not in church because they don’t have a car or because it’s not their ‘weekend’ for church.

Sadly, people who want to get to church simply can’t.

By the way, I lead a church that virtually requires a vehicle to get there. I love how we often see people with reliable transportation helping out those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s at least a partial remedy to this problem.

5. Online Options

Many churches have created a social media presence and many podcast their messages like we do at Connexus. Churches are also launching online campuses that bring the entire service to you on your phone, tablet or TV.

There are pros and cons to online church (I outline 7 here) and there’s no doubt that churches with a strong online presence have seen it impact physical attendance.

But whether or not your church has online options doesn’t make the issue go away. Anyone who attends your church has free access to any online ministry of any church.

Online church is here to stay, whether you participate or not.

6. The cultural disappearance of guilt

When I grew up, I felt guilty about not being in church on a Sunday.

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

I regularly meet people all the time who haven’t been in months but LOVE our church.

If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator, you need a new strategy. (Well, honestly, you’ve always needed a new strategy…)

7. Self-directed spirituality

People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options.

We live in a era in which no parent makes a visit to a doctor’s office without having first googled the symptoms of a child’s illness and a recommended course  of treatment. Just ask any family physician. It drives them nuts. (Google, doctors will tell you, is not a complete replacement for medical school.)

Similarly, when was the last time you bought a car without completely researching it online?

In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality…for better or for worse.

Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions.

The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution.

I don’t actually believe that’s what a church is. I think it’s a movement…not an institution. But many churches behave like an institution, and the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from it as a result.

8. Failure to see a direct benefit

People always make time for the things they value most.  If they’re not making time for church, that tells you something.

Even among people who say their love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit. They don’t see the value in being there week after week.

That could be because there isn’t much value (gut check). Or it could be because there is value that they simply don’t see.

Either way, failure to see a direct benefit always results in declining engagement.

So what are you doing or not doing that leaves people feeling like there’s not that much value?

9. Valuing attendance over engagement

I’ll talk about this more in the podcast interviews and in the next posts, but when someone merely attends church, the likelihood of showing up regularly or even engaging their faith decreases over time.

At our church, I find our most engaged people—people who serve, give, invite and who are in a community group—are our most frequent attenders.

More and more as a leader, I value engagement over attendance.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

10. A massive culture shift

All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting. Seismically.

Church leaders who fail to recognize this will not be able to change rapidly enough to respond to the shifts that are happening.

If you want more on how the culture is shifting, I outlined 15 Characteristics of Unchurched People Today here and outlined 12 Cultural Trends Church Leaders Can’t Ignore (But Might) in this post.

Change is unkind to the unprepared, so prepare.

That’s why I’m so passionate about this upcoming series of blog posts and podcasts.

What Would You Add?

These are 10 reasons I see for even the committed church attender attending less often.

What do you see?

Really looking forward to the dialogue on this subject over the next two weeks.

Before you leave a comment, remember, we’re talking about why people who love the church aren’t attending as much.

This isn’t the best place to go on a rant about everything that’s wrong with the church. I’ll have other posts about that, and remember, I love the church and am committed to us fulfilling our mission better than ever, even if that means radical change…which it likely does.

So what are you seeing in your church? Leave a comment!

9 Little Character Tests That Tell You Way Too Much About Yourself

Sometimes progress in life can be tough to measure.

You might feel stuck right now. Or just the opposite—you might feel like you’re making incredible progress.

But are you?  How would you know?

Of all the areas in which I want to make progress in this life, character (which is inherently tied to spiritual growth) is the greatest.

How do you know how your character is doing…really?

It’s important, because in the scheme of life, character trumps gifting. The headlines are littered with gifted people whose character (or lack of it) caused their downfall. Your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you.

Surprinsgly, your character isn’t just revealed in your best moments. The truth often breaks out in the little moments.

If you want to know how your character is really doing, check yourself in these 9 every day moments we all encounter.

9 Every Day Things That Reveal Way Too Much About Your Character

Before I jump into the list, just know I have failed every one of these tests at some point in my life.

Okay, sometimes I still fail some of them. But you have to have something to work toward, don’t you?

1. What you think when someone takes ‘your’ parking spot

You know that moment when you get to the mall parking lot and see the empty space, only to have someone else dart in? Yes. That moment.

Or the parking space you always park in at work that someone else had the audacity to use yesterday? And no, it didn’t have a reserved sign or anything…but the planet should know that’s your space!!!

What happens inside you in that moment?

That’s your character speaking.

2. How you react to slow internet

So this is a major fail for me. If the state of my character could be entirely summed up by my reaction to slow internet, I should probably be locked up from society at large and I would certainly miss out on heaven. I only throw things on the inside, but inside my little mind, there’s not much left standing.

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

Apparently the Holy Spirit and I have some work to do around internet connection speeds.

3. The gap between what you think and what you say when someone compliments you

Christians are famous for false humility. Thanks, that wasn’t me…it was the Lord sounds good but has several problems with it.

First, the Lord probably doesn’t sing or preach as poorly as you do. How many nobody’s-told-me-how-bad-I-really-am Christian singers or preachers have ascribed their gift to God?

And second, let’s say you really are gifted. Even if you are decent at what you do—or great at it— there can be a gap between what you say publicly and what you think privately.

What you say: Thanks. It really wasn’t much. 

What you think: Yes, I kind of rocked it, didn’t I?

What you say: Oh, I’m not sure I deserve that. 

What you think: Yes I do. Finally someone noticed. 

So what do you say when someone compliments you? How about ‘Thank you. I’m grateful it helped’?

And then how about privately thanking God for the way he might have used you in that situation?

That’s a decent start.

As C.S. Lewis said, true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

4. How you respond to critics

Haters gonna hate.

But do you hate back? Or start listing off a thousand reasons why they’re wrong? Or try to subtly undermine their reputation?

Critics used to trigger a defensiveness in me that was primal. Now…for the most part…they don’t.

What if when someone criticized you, you said thank you instead (silently or out loud)? There’s usually something you can learn from them. And often there’s a kernel of truth…even if it’s very small.

Even if you have to throw away most of what a critic says, you don’t have to throw away the learning.

5. What you tell yourself when you make a mistake

So what self-talk loop plays in your head when you make a mistake?

For too many of us, it’s unhealthy. It can range from You’re so stupid to You never make mistakes…other people do. 

Neither is good.

Again, mistakes are tremendous learning opportunities. They are rarely fatal.

And one of the keys to success in life is not how many times you get knocked down. It’s how many times you get up. To be successful, you only need to get up one more time than you got knocked down.

6. How you react when someone overfills the trash…and doesn’t take it out

This one’s all about the expectations you have about other people.

Yes, there’s an unwritten rule that people who overfill the trash should take it out. Isn’t there? Isn’t there?

And isn’t there a rule about the person who opened the clean dishwasher being the one who has to empty it…because otherwise the little ‘clean’ light goes off and you can mix dirty and clean dishes together…an unspeakable evil.

But there’s also an unwritten rule about not being a jerk about it either when the rule gets broken.

7. Your social media voice

So you’re complex. You have moods, nuances and fascinating parts of your personality that are oh-so diverse. But chances are your friends could sum up your personality with a single adjective.

If you’re not sure that’s true, flip the equation. You can probably sum up your friends’ social media voice in a single word. As in…he’s angry, or she’s so insecure.

If your friend summed up your social media voice in a single word, what word would they use? Snarky? Bitter? Braggy? Kind? Cynical? Hopeful? Petty? Helpful? Jealous?

Yes. You have a voice. What is it?

Your voice may be who you really are or pretend to be. But is it who you are called to be?

8. How you react to other people’s social media voice

So, of course, you do a much better job than other people on social media, don’t you?

Because your voice—my voice—is so beautifully appropriate.

Owned.

(I’m so arrogant.)

Sigh.

9. How you return the shopping cart

It was a random tweet years ago by my friend Jeff Henderson that got me thinking about this in the first place.

Jeff tweeted “You can tell an awful lot about a person’s character by how they return the shopping cart.”

He’s right.

Yep, This is Spiritual

So what does this have to do with faith and leadership? More than we think.

Why not bring your faith into these every day moments…and ask God what’s going on?

It can change more than you think.

In fact, your reaction in moments like these probably says a lot about your actual spiritual maturity.  I believe we need a different kind of spiritual maturity in the church, as I’ve written about here. And often the things we think are signs of spiritual maturity, aren’t (as I wrote about here).

What are you learning about faith and the little moments?

What would you add to this list? Scroll down and leave a comment!

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The Critics Will Win If You Let Them: 3 Lessons For Church Leaders From Canada’s Love/Hate Relationship With Target

Just under two years ago, Target expanded into Canada, opening 133 stores quickly.

Last month, Target announced they’re pulling out. By May 2015, all their stores will be closed…26 months after opening, having taken a $7 billion USD loss. Over 17,000 jobs are also disappearing. Ouch.

I think church planters and church leaders can learn something from what happened.

Sarah Bessey has already shared some lessons for church planters on Target’s withdrawal from Canada, and her assessment of cause is in line with much of what you read in the media and what I’ve heard from other Canadians about the subject. It’s worth the read (thanks Sarah!).

Do I think Target made some missteps? Absolutely.

But I think there’s another dynamic at work that fewer people are talking about. And it applies to church planters and church leaders too.

What’s the dynamic?

Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Target, and it reveals dynamics almost every leader has to struggle with regularly. Pay attention to these dynamics, and you can lead through them.

Ignore them, and you might succumb to them.

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1. What people say they want…is not always what people want

Many Canadians begged to have Target come to Canada for years. No trip to the US was complete for many Canadians without a visit to Tar-jay and a report back to friends at home about ‘the amazing deals we scored on such awesome stuff.’

When Target showed up, many Canadians had mixed reactions. We claimed the selection wasn’t the same. The prices were higher (see below). People complained that Target was out of stock on many items. And in the end, not enough Canadians bothered shopping there.

It appears that what people say they want is not always what people want.

So what’s the application?

Application

A leader’s job is not to discern want people want…it’s to discern (in prayerful community with other leaders) what people need.

For example. Many people say they don’t want change. They like things the way they are, they just want different results (like growth) (I wrote about what happens when people want their church to grow, just not change, here).

There’s some tension in that, isn’t there? If you keep doing what you’re currently doing, you’ll get the results you’re currently getting.

So how do you handle that?

The truth is MOST people actually want change. They just want well-led change. And the truth is most people need change. They just need well-orchestrated change.

That’s your job as a leader…to take people where they need to go, despite how they initially feel. It’s often a difficult job.

That’s why your job is not always to give people what they want. It is to lovingly, prayerfully lead them where they need to go.

If you want to learn more about how to lead change when facing opposition, I outlined 5 specific strategies for that in my latest book.

2. Rumour > truth.

Another common complaint by Canadians was that Target’s prices were higher than they should be and higher than Walmart.

First reality: it’s Canada. There are 30 million people spread out over half a continent, not 300 million. Prices are always higher here (have you shopped for a car or house recently people?) ALL prices are higher.

Second when Target arrived its prices were in a dead heat with Walmart.  And in fact, by mid-2014 Target had consistently lower prices than Walmart. 4% lower.

I’m not sure most people believe that, but truth often loses to rumours.

Another claim is that Target was constantly out of stock. Maybe I just shopped at the wrong Targets, but I never found that to be the case.  I’m not saying it wasn’t an issue in some stores, but you would think the way some people talked that walking through Target was like walking through a ghost town where nothing was left but a few bare furnishings.

A kind of group-think can take over, and, soon enough, what’s true matters less than what people think is true.

Truth will lose to rumour if you let it. So don’t let it.

Application

It’s a leader’s job to constantly remind people of what’s actually true. I wonder what would have happened if Target ran a campaign that compared prices, or addressed stock issues more intentionally.

What rumours persist in your organization or church that you can intentionally engage? Instead of going on the defensive, just continue to (thoughtfully) remind people what’s true.

3. The critics will win, if you let them

After the initial Canadian love affair with Target ended so abruptly on their arrival, the critics—ranging in tone from hostility to indifference—appear to have won the day.

Which is weird. Ever really analyzed critics?

Sure, sometimes there are well-informed critics. But often people who have accomplished very little with their lives are completely convinced they can run a multibillion dollar business far better than the CEO. Or their favourite pro team better than their coach. Or the nation better than anyone. (To which I always say, then get off your couch and do something with your life.)

Criticism is always easier than contribution. Leadership means contributing, not just criticizing. I’ve quoted this before, but it bears repeating. As the character Anton Ego said so poignantly in the movie Ratatouille:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. 

The other thing every leader need to know about critics is this: critics are almost always in the minority. Although I have no data on this, I’m quite sure there were more people who actually shopped at Target than there were critics. As I argued in Leading Change Without Losing It, the number of critics is usually surprisingly low; maybe 10-20% of any given group.

But critics are loud.

And the mistake most leaders make is that we confuse loud with large. Just because a group is loud doesn’t mean a group is large.

But the loudness of a group can kill a great initiative—if you don’t know how to handle it as a leader.

Application

So how do you handle the critics?

You listen to the critics.

You thank them.

Maybe you even empathize with them (If I were you, I might not like the music at our church either…thanks for letting me know!)

You learn from them.

And then you lead. 

Remember, if the critics are really only 10-20% of the group, it’s irresponsible of you as a leader to sacrifice the future of 80-90% of your group for the sake of a vocal minority. If you have a great vision, proceed.

Far too many God-given dreams have died because leaders grew afraid when they heard the voices of a few critics.

Don’t let the critics kill the future.

 

Any Insights?

At the end of the day…Target is just a retail company (one I liked…but it’s just a store after all).

But, church leaders, what you’re working on lasts into eternity. The stakes are so high.

What are you learning about love/hate relationships in your leadership?

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Scroll down…I’d love to hear from you!

regret

One Simple Question That Can Move You From Regret to Relief

Change is an issue you actually face daily.

I don’t mean to imply that you’re actually changing everyday, I just mean you’re facing change.

You’re either

leading change

resisting change

avoiding change

fearing change

mishandling change (don’t like this one either, but it happens)

As a leader, I’m gripped by this thought:

Change is not neutral. And whether you change always triggers relief or regret. 

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When you look back over your life, you will realize the changes you’ve made or didn’t make always resulted in relief or regret. Here are the kind of things you’ll say:

I’m so glad we worked through our differences and got counselling (relief)

I never should have taken the job for the money (regret)

I’m so thankful we started this church (relief)

I never should have gotten behind the wheel when I was that tired (regret)

I’m so glad we didn’t buy that house that was just out of our price range (relief)

One of my biggest mistakes was asking him to be my business partner (regret)

Inviting my best friend to be my son’s mentor was one of the best parenting decisions we ever made (relief)

Standing between the status quo and the outcome was one simple thing: change.

Either a change they needed to make (deciding to work on their marriage  or to start the church) or a change they needed to avoid (not buying that house, or saying no to the prospective business partner).

And often, leaders are simply confused about whether to make the change or not.

Asking yourself a simple question can help cut through the confusion around change.

Here’s the question:

Five years from now, will the change I’m considering today result in relief or regret?

Stated another way:

Am I going to regret doing this/not doing this?

Am I going to be so relieved I did this/didn’t do this?

You won’t always know the answer for sure, but you will probably know more of it than you think. Asking that simple question can clarify so much.

Five years from now, all you’re going to have is relief or regret about the change you’re staring down today.

Because whether or not you change always triggers relief or regret.

So what are you staring down today?

Will the change bring relief or regret?

Once you know, go do something about it.

bad news

6 Ways To Stop Bad News From Hijacking Your Leadership (And Your Joy)

Tired of hearing bad news all the time?

Even in growing and ‘successful’ organizations, leaders receive a disproportionate share of bad news.

Why is that?

As I tell my staff team all the time, we get paid to solve the problems no one else knows how to solve.

Sure, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; there are lots of incredibly smart people who are not on staff who solve problems in our ministry every day. But to a certain extent, if you’re a leader, your job is to solve problems. And often, they’re big ones.

Which means you’re the one who daily absorbs a lot of the tension on behalf of others.

And if you’re like me, you go through seasons in which you think to yourself “Can’t anybody tell me some good news?”

Eventually, bad news even impacts your spirit.

Ever wonder if there’s a better way to handle it?

There is.

bad news

While there are many ways to approach bad news, here are 6 that have really helped me as a leader.

 1. Name reality—even if it’s brutal

As Jim Collins has famously said, it’s a leader’s job to confront the brutal facts and name reality.

That’s hard to do. Because instinctively, most people want to pretend bad news isn’t true. It’s just easier to live in denial.

But pretending something isn’t true doesn’t make it false. But many leaders try anyway.

Which is always a mistake, and as Collins points out, often a fatal one.

The best leaders jump on all the facts and direct their course accordingly.

2. Don’t let the bad hijack the good

Bad news is a hijacker. If you let it, it will steal your joy.

If you’re like me, a bit of bad news can hijack your mood, your motivation and even your day.

launched a leadership podcast a few months ago and people have been incredibly (and I mean incredibly) supportive. I always encourage people to leave a review, and so far many have. People have said some amazing things. Of all the reviews, only one listener has really said anything moderately critical, which it totally that person’s right (she had a valid point).

But guess what I’ve done? I’ve almost memorized that one critical review (I’ve read it so often).

So…of the 128 reviews so far on iTunes, why didn’t I memorize 10 (or 127) of the positive ones? What’s wrong with me?

Likely the same thing that’s wrong with you…I let the bad hijack the good.

When you let the bad hijack the good, you kind of invalidate all the good.

I’m not talking about not reading the negative or ignoring it. I’m just saying, don’t let it trump everything else. There’s a lot of good out there. Really.

3. Don’t hide the truth

So things aren’t going the way you want them to go.

It’s one thing to admit how things are going to yourself; it’s another thing to acknowledge it to others.

I still have to fight the instinct to keep bad news a secret. You know why I want to keep it a secret? Because I think it reflects poorly on me as a leader.

Ironically, being honest about bad news doesn’t make you a poor leader, it makes you a better one.

So who should you tell?

The right people, which is basically the people who are in a position to do something about the bad news.

Maybe it’s your staff, your key volunteers, your board…whoever. Tell them. Honestly.

You’ll have to fight the urge to bury the truth or shade it or spin it. Fight it with everything you’ve got. Everyone will be far better for it.

Just because you shouldn’t tell everybody doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell somebody. The right people need to know.

4. Unload the gun

It’s tempting to want to shoot the messenger. Don’t.

You may have an emotional reaction. You’re human. Just don’t share that reaction with the person who told you.

Many leaders end up feeling lonely, isolated or misinformed because people are afraid to tell them what they don’t want to hear. This is exactly how that happens.

So instead of getting angry at them, thank them.

Similarly, when you share the information, avoid blame. Don’t shoot people or events or culture or whatever you’ll be tempted to shoot at something or someone to justify the bad news.

Take responsibility.

If you want to see what happens when you stop making excuses for bad news and start making progress, listen to Josh Gagnon’s story about how Next Level Church in New England has grown to 2,000 people in four locations in 6 years in a region famous for ignoring the Gospel. They refuse to make excuses, blame others, or otherwise justify failure. It’s inspiring.

5. Decide on an action step as soon as possible

Now that you’re out of the excuse business and the hiding business, it’s time for action.

One of the reasons bad news linger as long as it does is because we take no action over it. Like a bad odour in your kitchen garbage, you can complain about it or you can simply take the trash to the garage.

The best thing you can do with bad news is to decide on an action step.

There’s always good information inside bad news.

Not growing? Diagnose the problem as quickly as you can (here, for example, are 10 reasons why churches don’t grow) and work to a solution.

Someone angry with you? Figure out why, own it, and walk into their office or pick up the phone and apologize.

Givings down? Stop complaining and devise a strategy.

The faster you decide to act, the faster your mood will change.

Knowing about a problem is entirely different than solving a problem. Even though not every problem has a clear solution, doing something is major progress.

In some cases, the action step might be to decide there is nothing you can do about the problem and the best thing you can do is leave it and move on. But even that’s a step. A much better step than moaning about an issue for another week, day or even hour.

6. Make ALL news your friend

I’ve been using the term bad news throughout this post. But as my friend Rich Birch once told me, there’s no such thing as bad news, only news.

He’s right.

Bad news can make you think you’re worse than you actually are. And good news can make you think you’re better than you actually are.

So why not just treat all news simply as news?

That way, you’ll be able to spot the warning signs in good news (they’re always there) and the hope in bad news (yep…it’s there too…you just have to look hard).

When all news is your friend, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work. Which is exactly what you’re called to do as a leader.

What Do You Think?

What are you learning about bad news, good news and your responses as a leader?

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