From Mission

reaching the next generation

5 Surprising Characteristics of Churches That Are Actually Reaching the Next Generation

Everyone talks about reaching the next generation of young adults.

But what really makes a church effective in reaching the next generation?

I’ve visited a few churches this year that are doing a fantastic job at reaching 18-30 year olds—a vastly under-represented demographic in most churches.

I took notes at all the churches. They all shared surprising characteristics, even though they are incredibly diverse.

The surprise (at least for me)?

It wasn’t their model that made them effective. The churches I studied have different models.

It wasn’t their denomination. One was Roman Catholic and attracting tons of young families. Others were cutting edge conservative evangelical church plants.

It wasn’t their facility. Some were portable. Some were permanent.

In many ways, these churches are bending the rule book established by the mega churches of the 90s and 2000s.

Here are 5 things I’ve seen in churches that are killing it with people in their 20s and 30s:

reaching the next generation

1. Passion over Polish

If you attend enough conferences, you can think that you need polish to pull off effective ministry. Another $50,000 in lights or sound and you’ll be good.

The effective churches I’ve visited and seen recently by no means had the best lights, stage or production. Some had almost no stage and no lights, while others had a pretty decent package, but not nearly the level you see at some churches.

What did they all have in common? Passion.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

It’s not that polish is bad, but I think it’s increasingly trumped by a raw authenticity that exudes from leaders who will do whatever it takes to reach people with the Gospel.

Smaller facilities and stage sets were more than compensated for by preachers, worship leaders and team members who exuded passion for the mission.

Passion beats polish.

2. Jesus over God

This may seem either self-evident or trivial, but I believe it’s neither; the churches that were packed with young adults talk about Jesus more than they talk about God.

Of course, Jesus is God and God is Jesus.

But God can mean many things in our post-Christian culture. Jesus is far more specific.

I’ve noticed that churches that talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit are having a greater impact on young adults than churches who talk about God.

3. Progress over Facilities

Several of the churches I’ve visited this year are multisite. And they don’t have massive facilities from which to launch new locations.

Next Level Church in New Hampshire is reaching almost 3000 people over 6 locations. Their largest facility is a 14,000 square foot campus that’s a converted auto repair shop. They’ve done a fantastic job remodelling it, but they’ve done it on a dime and it only seats 400 people. They’re reaching almost 3000 people out of that space across 6 locations.

It’s not the 10 million dollar facility you’d think you need to have to reach 3000 people, but that’s not what Josh Gagnon, their lead pastor, is focused on. (By the way, I was recently a guest on Josh’s Leadership Podcast. Perhaps my favourite interview I’ve given. Raw and so real.)

Josh’s passionate, can-do, no-excuses attitude is in part what’s led them to become one of the ten fastest growing churches in America.

Ditto for National Community Church in DC. They’re doing a superb job reaching young adults with very small permanent facilities. And they’re adding an eighth location without first building out the space they already have.


4. Risk over Certainty

All of the churches I know that are doing a great job with young adults take risks. Big risks.

They’re either at odds with their denomination (I’ve seen a few of these) or are launching locations where no one else would dare plant a church.

They’re figuring out how to accommodate parking and even children’s ministry after they’ve made the decision to open or move. They just want to see the kingdom advance.

And the young adults they’re reaching seem fine with the uncertainty. They just want more space and more locations to invite their friends to.

Lesson? If you’ve got growth and momentum but you’re waiting for certainty before you determine what’s next, you might be waiting too long.

Just act.

5. Mission over Money

The question for many churches is this: does mission follow money, or does money follow mission?

Great question.

The churches I know that are doing a great job with young adults would say ‘money follows mission.’

Do the mission well, and money shows up.

In fact, if you lead with the mission first, everything else shows up: people, money and the resources you need.

Too many churches wait for the day when they have the money to realize their mission.

Realize your mission, and you’ll have the money you need.

What Do You See?

What do you see in churches that are reaching the next generation?

If you want more, listen to my interview with Geoff Surratt on his forthcoming book on churches that reach millennials. His findings (while in beta) are fascinating:

Lasting Impact Releases TOMORROW! Today’s the LAST DAY for the Pre-order Bonuses!

Hey friends…I’m releasing a brand new book to help church leaders deal with issues like reaching the next generation with the Gospel.

The book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (team health, declining attendance, cultural trends and what the future church will be like to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book and fill out the bonus claim form will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! Today’s the last day to get all four!



leadership personally

5 Reasons You Should Stop Taking Leadership SO Personally

One of the problems I struggled with for years in leadership was taking every leadership triumph or set back so personally.

I let the dynamics of leadership go to my head and heart too often. My spirits soared when things were good in ministry. They sunk when they weren’t. I took too much of the weight home. Well, not just home. It followed me everywhere I went.

Over time, I’ve learned that there’s a world of difference between taking leadership seriously and taking it personally.

Leaders should always take leadership seriously. It demands our best, and we should give it. Every day.

But to take it too personally creates a roller coaster that ripples out all over the place.

When you take leadership seriously, everyone wins.

When you take it personally, almost everyone loses.

Here are 5 reasons you should stop taking leadership so personally.

leadership personally1. You’re messing up your head and your heart

If you take things too personally, you create an emotional roller coasting no one wants to ride.

As Tim Keller has pointed out, if you let success go to your head, failure will go to your heart. And that’s exactly what happens when you over-personalize your leadership.

Your head is never quite right when things are going well, because you take credit for things that perhaps rightly belong to God or to the contribution of others. Or you begin to believe it’s all you.

Conversely, when you fail, you become completely deflated, convinced God can do nothing with you or through you. You fall into despair.

The reality is that you’re not nearly as good as your best day or nearly as bad as your worst.

Healthy leaders know how to separate what they do from who they are, which leads us to the second reason you should stop taking your leadership so personally.

2. You’re confusing who you are with what you do

Far too many leaders confuse who they are with what they do.

Big mistake.

We all know we’re not supposed to confuse our identity with our work, but almost all of us do it.

You are not what you do.

Hear this:

You’re loved.

You’re forgiven.

You’re cherished.

None of this has anything to do with what you’ve done and everything to do with what Christ has done for you. That’s the Gospel.

The error in confusing who you are with what you do arises from the fact that you think you’re loved, forgiven and celebrated because you did your best.

Those who understand Christianity know that the opposite is actually true:

You do your best BECAUSE you’re loved, forgiven and cherished.

Do you see the flip?

You don’t do your best to earn God’s favour. You do your best because you have God’s favour.

Spend a day thinking and praying about that. Seriously, do a personal retreat on that one thought.

It will profoundly change how you lead.

3. You’re overemphasizing how important you are

At the heart of over personalizing leadership is this problem: you’ve unwittingly made it all about you.

Of all the scripture verses that stop me in my tracks, this verse from Galatians 6 is one of the best:

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:3 NLT

You’re just not that important.

As C.S. Lewis said, humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s simply thinking of yourself less often.

When you and I are gone, the world will keep spinning. The Kingdom of God will keep advancing.

Somehow it’s not about me. It never was. It never will be.

I just get to play a part.

4. You’re letting your personal feelings dictate the future of your organization

As goes the leader, so goes the team.

If your personal fortune goes up and down with your church or organization, eventually it doesn’t only impact you; it impacts your organization.


Because when you go down, so, eventually, does your church.

When you suffer, your organization then experiences the the impact of your dysfunctions.

A bad moment can become a bad season, because your reaction to what happens triggers the next happening.

Let’s say last month was a bad month in your organization for a variety of reasons. If you personalize those failures, last month’s results will make this month a bad month for you. And if you have a bad month this month, it’s somewhat likely that next month will be a bad month for your organization because you simply haven’t effectively led your team out of the slump (because you’re still in it).

What could have been a blip on the radar (one bad month) can easily become a slide down into a bad quarter or even a bad year.

And who needs that?

5. You’re ruining the rest of your life

I know that leadership brings a weight that only leaders understand. And to be candid, I still have a hard time not thinking about what I do. I love what I get to do. And I think about it a lot.

But it was far worse when I took my ups and downs in leadership personally.

Why? Because bad days would come home with me. Always.

When your success goes to your head and your failure goes to your heart, you always carry them home.

The people who love you will pay a price for this.

You will be arrogant or sullen…confused as to why you’re not the hero at home you are at work, or, on your bad days, resentful that your family and friends don’t want to join your miserable pity party.

The people in your life who truly love you don’t love you because of what you did at work. They just love you.

So stop ruining their lives. And yours.

Got Another Reason?

What have you learned about taking things too personally in leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

The Bonuses on My New Book Disappear In A Few Days!

Hey friends…I’m releasing a brand new book to help church leaders.

The book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (team health, declining attendance, cultural trends and what the future church will be like to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book and fill out the bonus claim form will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! They’re gone next Monday. 7.1_ModHmPg_v2

time carey nieuwhof

7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For

There are at least 7 things in leadership there will never be enough time for…unless, of course, you make it.

And smart leaders do.

My guess is that whenever you read this, you’re already feeling pinched for time and a bit overwhelmed.

Welcome to leadership. Welcome to life.

If you study the differences between great leaders and poor leaders (as I outlined here), many of them centre around pro-activity, refusing to make excuses and abundance thinking.

Another key difference is that great leaders refuse to let their days get sucked up by meeting after useless meeting, email and being pulled into other people’s urgent priorities.

If you’ve ever made it Friday and had a hard time answering the question “What did I accomplish this week?”,  it might be because you failed to make time for these 7 things for which great leaders always make time.

So, if you really want to edge up your leadership and begin accomplishing something significant, start making time for these 7 things.

time carey nieuwhof

1. Investing in your best people

Guess who will monopolize your time if you’re not proactive?

Your most problematic people. Problem people will occupy your calendar unless you decide they won’t.

When volunteer X didn’t show up for the 5th time, most leaders will spend incredible time and effort trying to fix that. Or you’ll get yet another meeting request from person Y, who always seems to have some irresolvable crisis going on in his life.

And in the process, your best leaders will be ignored.

Your best people—the ones who show up on time, every time, prepared and ready to do an exceptional job—rarely ask to meet with you. They never call you. They never bother you.

A great leadership practice is to spend the majority of your one-on-one time with your best people.


It makes them better.

It makes you better.

It moves your mission forward faster.

And—let’s be honest—it’s not like the problem people really get better as a result of your meeting with them anyway. They continue to be problematic.

So, cut your losses and spend the bulk of your time with your best people.

2. Planning for the future

There’s never enough time to do an awesome job planning for the future.

But if you study top performers, you realize they do something many other leaders don’t: they spend significant amounts of time working on plans for the future.

Naturally, they execute as well, but having a carefully crafted and shared mission, vision, strategy and even a set of values can guide your organization beautifully into the future.

If you don’t plan for the future, the future will simply happen to you.

If you plan for it, you’ll shape it.

When was the last time you took a full day—or even a full week—to work on the future?

No one will ever ask you do it, they’ll just criticize you if you don’t. So do it.

3. Your Highest Value Projects

If you broke what you do into categories from ‘lowest value’ to ‘highest value’, you’d learn something interesting.

You will naturally spend most of your time doing the things that provide the least value: answering email, going to meetings that went too long, didn’t need to happen or that you shouldn’t have attended, and answering questions that really didn’t move your mission forward.

Think about it this way: if you didn’t engage in any of the above for a week, what would truly be lost (other than having a full inbox to empty?).

But you also do things that provide exceptionally high value. While it will vary from leader to leader, for me, those things would be creating great sermon series, setting objectives for the months and years ahead and ensuring our senior leaders are healthy and on mission. I know when I do those things well, our church does best.

In my personal time, I blog, podcast and write. Recently, I’ve cut back on the number of original blog posts I’m writing so I can focus on launching my new book, Lasting Impact.  The decision was simple. Something had to give, and I believe a well-written book has the potential to help many more leaders over a longer window of time than a 1200 word blog post.

If you consistently spend time on high value projects, you will have a far greater legacy as a leader than leaders who don’t.

So what’s the greatest value you bring to your organization? Budget significant time for that.

4. Exercise

I avoided this for too long in my leadership. For the first decade in my time in leadership, I hardly exercised.

Ironically, I worked more hours and got less done.

While I’m not perfect in my exercise routine, exercise has been a bigger part of my life in the last five years than at any other point. So has proper sleep (see point 5, below).

Perhaps not coincidentally, in the window in which I’ve exercised the most and slept the best, our church has grown to the largest it’s ever been. I’ve also written 3 books, launched this blog and launched a leadership podcast.

This may not be a coincidence.

You’ll make time to go to the doctor if you suffer from obesity, diabetes or heart disease. So why not make time for exercise instead?

5. Adequate sleep

In the 80s and 90s leaders used to brag about how little sleep they got.

I bought that line of thinking until it almost killed me.

Chronic lack of sleep was a major factor in the personal burnout I went through almost a decade ago (I outline 7 painful truths about burnout and leadership here).

Today, I don’t cheat sleep anymore. In fact, I believe getting a full night’s sleep and even taking naps is a secret weapon most leaders miss.

You think more clearly and are simply nicer to be around when you’re rested. Everyone is. And those are two key characteristics of effective leaders.

Everyone will ask you to stay up later to get things done.


Go to bed on time. You’ll actually get more done—refreshed and alive in the morning.

6. Family

Everyone wants you to have a great family life as a leader, but then they’ll ask you to please attend their event next Saturday (which happens to be your family day).

What do you do?

Too many leaders cave and say yes to the event.

Every time you say yes to an event on your day off, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to an evening out, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to a project you can’t adequatly manage, you’re saying no to your family.

Two things can help with this.

First, pre-determine what your family time will be. Then, when people ask you whether you’re free, you can simply say “I’m sorry, I have a commitment”. If all you have is a blank space in your calendar, you’ll end up saying yes. So write “FAMILY” into your calendar as a commitment.

Second, you need to learn how to say no nicely. I outlined the 6 step strategy I use for saying no (nicely) in this post.

One day you will retire from leadership. You will never retire from your family.

7. Thinking

Every leader needs time to think.

If your life is a series of long meetings, administration and endless texts and emails, you will never take time to truly think.

Innovation never arises from leaders who just want to get it done. Innovation comes from leaders who question what ‘it’ should be.

Again, you can carve white space out on your calendar just to think. Go for a long car ride with the windows down. Find a coffee shop to linger in. Take a walk in the woods. Or lock your office door, shut your laptop and grab and pen and paper.

You can actually develop some strategies to become a better thinker (I outline mine here), but first you need to simply create the space and time to think.

What Have You Found?

I find if I don’t make time for these 7 things, they won’t happen.

How about you? What are you learning?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

The Bonuses on My New Book Disappear Soon!

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (declining attendance, team health, cultural trends and the future church to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! There’s just a week left before they’re gone.



rethink call to ministry

Why It’s Time To Rethink What It Means To Be Called To Ministry

Chances are you’re likely struggling with the same issue almost every church leader is—a lack of truly great leaders for ministry.

Whether I talk to megachurch leaders or leaders of churches of 50 people, they say the same thing: they just can’t find enough capable, gifted leaders who want to serve in a church staff role.

In fact, many have told me they would have more campuses and be able to reach far more people if they just had qualified leaders to lead them.

The leadership crisis is true to some extent of volunteers, although many churches I know have figured out how to get capable leaders into key volunteer roles (if you want more on that, read this).

The deepest crisis is in staffing. The number of  people who want to be pastors, ministry directors, or serve in other church staff roles may be at an all time low.

In past generations, the best and the brightest young Christians often went into ministry.

Today, they go into law, medicine, business and into startups. They never even think of ministry.

Three questions.

What if we changed that?

How would we change that?

What would happen if we changed that?

rethink call to ministry

The Best and the Brightest?

I realize some of you are already chafing at the idea of ‘best and brightest’ and ‘ministry’ being used in the same sentence.

And for sure, I’ve read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about not many of us Christians being wise in the eyes of the world, or well-born or well-educated. But he was talking about being called to salvation in that passage, not about being called to ministry.

And a little later on in the scriptures, Paul gave us his resume. It’s pretty impressive.

Sure, Paul was arguing that human skill is nothing compared to the tremendous grace he’s experienced in Jesus Christ. But you could make a strong argument that God used Paul’s training and background in law and theology to spread Christianity rapidly under Paul’s leadership.

For every Paul there’s a Moses with a less impressive resume (shepherd guy on a hill). But—wait for it—Moses spent time in a royal court. As did Joseph. As did Daniel.

I’m sure some of the lessons learned in those courts rubbed off.  And reading the stories of leaders like Moses, Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament is, in places, like reading a leadership textbook.

I think when you study the weight of scripture through that lens, you’ll realize God uses a person’s skill and talent for his higher purposes.

After all, if we believe a person’s gifting is from God, then it only makes sense God uses a person’s gifting to work out his plans.

Does God equip the called? For sure. He specializes in doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.

But maybe he also calls the equipped.

Having skills and gifts doesn’t disqualify you from ministry any more than not having them (initially) does.

The Problem with A Subjective Call

Onto the subject of calling.

The way most people talk about calling these days is almost entirely subjective. 

We say things like

How do you know you’re called?

Have you heard from God?

Has God spoken to you?

If the answer is no, many of take that as immediate disqualification from ministry.

There are many problems with boiling calling down to a subjective sense of calling. The first is that it’s…subjective.

If you say you’re called—that you’ve heard from God—who can really argue with that? You just played the God card.

Second, it assumes that every person who is called to work in a church full time has to have a subjective, personal experience of God telling them that’s exactly what they are to do.

What if that’s not true?

I don’t want to get into Bible wars. (You know, where people throw scripture verses at each other.) But I don’t want you to think I’m just making this argument up or that it’s entirely unbiblical.

There may be another perspective that might be far more scriptural than our current view of subjective calling.

Read through Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.

Paul does not say, if you feel you have the gift of apostleship, then you are an apostle.  Nor does he say if God told you you are an evangelist, that you are evangelist.

He simply says God made some people to be apostles and evangelists. And others to be pastors.

Your feelings don’t enter into it much. Your gifting does.

Similarly, I know people who think they are called to ministry who are actually not very good pastors.

Think about it.

You might feel called. You might be sincere.  But you might also be sincerely wrong.

Because our sense of calling has become so entirely subjective, we have perhaps allowed people who shouldn’t be in ministry into ministry.

Otherwise, why do some leaders who feel called to ministry struggle so much with being effective at ministry?

I realize this might seem far too harsh, but the subject is too important to ignore.

Now consider the opposite.

Why are people who are great at leadership not in ministry?

There are many reasons, but here are two:

Because their peers rarely think of ministry as a great option, they don’t (like breeds like).

Perhaps they didn’t experience a subjective sense of call into ministry.

But consider this. Paul does not say if you have the gift of leadership and feel a subjective sense of calling to lead, then lead.

He says if you have the gift of leadership, then LEAD WITH ALL DILIGENCE. No conditions.

Translation: if you have the gift of leadership…lead. It’s that simple.

So What Qualifies You For Church Leadership Then?

What if we looked at calling a different way?

First, every Christian is called to ministry, whether that’s in a volunteer role or a full time role, we all have a contribution to make in ministry.

But for church staff (which is the subject of this article), I wonder if we’d be ahead if we paid more attention to these 3 factors which I’ve selectively borrowed from Bill Hybels:





Character is such a major factor.

You just can’t lead in Christian leadership with out it.

The character of church leaders should be of the highest caliber. I’ve written extensively on character and believe that ultimately, your character, not your competency, determines your capacity as a leader.

If you want to see how your character is doing, you can try this revealing little test.


This is the factor that has been routinely ignored.

Your competency is a direct expression of your gifting. And the church has often ignored those with the gift of leadership. They have fled to the marketplace and avoided the church.

As a result, in the church:

We hire nice people over truly gifted people.

We hire people in need of work rather than people who can fulfill a mission.

We leave the marketplace to claim some of the best Christian leaders out there.

At Connexus, where I serve, we use gifting assessment tools like Right Path, StrengthFinders and others to determine where a persons’ gifting lies.

Objective metrics are so helpful because, ultimately, today’s changing church needs exceptionally skilled leadership.

But even a gut check can tell you the kind of leader the church needs.

The simplest way to tell if a person’s a leader? Look over their shoulder and see who’s following.

If high capacity people are following the person you’re looking at, they’re definitely a leader. If nobody’s following or the type of person who follows is questionable, well, at least you know what you’re getting.

And one hugely under-represented skill set in the church today is entrepreneurship. As I outlined here, I think the church today has more than enough shepherds. It’s time we found some entrepreneurs. Sure, entrepreneurial leaders are not the only leaders the church needs, but it is an exceptionally under-represented group in the church.

Today’s church demands today’s best leadership.


The third characteristic I think a church leader needs is conviction: conviction that the church is worth the full investment of a leader’s best time, best energy and even entire life.

What if there are thousands of leaders who are convicted that the church is supremely important, but they’ve just never thought their gifts could be put to use in it?

What if you don’t need a subjective sense of calling?

I won’t name them here, but I know personally of three leaders whose names you would likely know who are leading major ministries who never experience a subjective ‘call’. They would all say they simply volunteered.

And God has unmistakably used them powerfully. Their character, competency and conviction are second to none.

If they had waited for a subjective call, they might still be waiting.

And about 60,000 people might not be in church or have a relationship with Christ as a result.

What if there are thousands of leaders who would go into full time ministry if they knew that character, competency and conviction were enough?

What if?

Maybe You’re Called

Listen, to be fair, I had a very subjective call to ministry.

I am not a “God spoke to me this morning” kind of Christian, but I promise you God spoke to me.

My call to ministry in the middle of law school when I was in my twenties was entirely supernatural.

Honestly, I think it’s the only way God would have gotten my attention. I’ll tell you about it over coffee some day if we have a half hour.

But what if that’s not required?

See, if you’re:

a leader who has the character, competency and conviction to do church leadership, maybe you just should. Maybe that’s why you’re reading this.

a student or young leader or entrepreneur who has never thought about leadership in the church, but have the character, competency and conviction, rethink that.

responsible for hiring for your church, maybe ask candidates if they experienced and sense of calling, but don’t let the lack of calling be fatal. Look for character, competency and conviction. Maybe that’s enough.

Please hear this.

Some of you have never felt the call to ministry, but you have the conviction that the local church is the hope of the world. You also the competency and the character.

Maybe that’s enough. Clearly, you’d need to pray deeply about it and seek wise counsel who would affirm that you have the character, competency and conviction for ministry.

But maybe you don’t need the subjective call. Maybe the affirmation of your character, competency and conviction is your call.

Maybe you can volunteer.

So if you’ve got what it takes, step up.

More on The Issues Facing Today’s Church…Here

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses!



What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

Scroll down and leave a comment!



3 Common Reasons People Aren’t Responding To Your Awesome Vision

Frustrated that you feel like you’re casting an incredible vision…but nobody seems to be following?

It’s happened to all of us.

Usually, when a leader casts vision and it doesn’t ignite people’s imagination, there’s a good reason.

Sure, it could be you have a bad vision or a bad plan of action.

But let’s just assume you’re past that. You’ve got a great vision. It just didn’t ignite people.

There are times when all of us cast vision for something we’re excited about but hear crickets.

Here are three common pitfalls I’ve noticed when that happens.


1. You didn’t create a deep sense of urgency

Often the difference between attention and indifference is urgency.

Next time you’re on a plane, watch what happens when the flight attendant reviews the emergency oxygen and evacuation procedures.

Answer? Not much.

Most people are tuned out, dozing, reading or otherwise distracted. I’ve always felt for flight attendants. I’m sure they realize most people aren’t listening. Some have even adopted the monotone of a person who is saying something for the thousandth time to a disengaged audience.

It’s not that the information isn’t important, it’s just that it doesn’t seem urgent.

Why? Very few people actually expect the plane to crash.

When urgency is low, so is the motivation to listen and respond. 

Just imagine the same announcement mid-air during an episode of luggage-crunching turbulence.

How attentively are people listening now?

The only thing that’s changed is urgency.

Somehow information that was of possible use at some point has become essential at this point – maybe even life-saving. You’re going to remember and act on every word you can.

Leadership is no different. You might be sharing what you think is critical information with your team or entire organization, but if there’s no urgency, the motivation to listen to and act on it is low. Very low.

That’s why effective leaders learn to establish a sense of urgency when they speak.

While there are many factors that make up effective communication, leaders almost always communicate with a sense of urgency.

Urgency creates a hearing. And urgency demands a response.

How deep is the sense of urgency when I communicate? 

If the answer is ‘not very’, then don’t be surprised when people fail to respond.

2. You focused on the what, not on the why

As a leader, you get really excited about what you’re doing, but you take why you’re doing it for granted.

You know, and you assume everyone else does too.

One of the best communication techniques you can adopt is what I call the why sandwich.

In any vision communication piece (talk, email, blog post):

Start with why

Talk about the what

Touch briefly on the how

Close with why

This simple formula connects with people again and again.

Why unites. Why reminds us why we do what we do and what unites everyone in the room. It calls us back to the mission we all agreed we were on.

What and how divide. People who agree on the mission might disagree on how to accomplish or even what to do.

So if you only talk about what and how, you tend to divide people as much as you unite them.

But it’s deeper than that.

Even if everyone agreed on what and how, the agreement can be followed by a so what, as in, ‘well, that’s great, but so what? Why should I care???”

Starting with why and ending with why remind people what’s at stake, why it matters and why all of this is so critical.

Simon Sinek is right, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

So start and end with why. Always.

3. You didn’t ask for a response

I’ve been caught on this too many times.

A friend of mine who heard me cast vision around raising money once told me “Carey, you did a wonderful job inspiring and informing. You did a poor job asking.”

He was completely right.

You know why?

I was afraid.

I didn’t want to ask people for money. Even though it was for an amazing cause.

Think about it though: ultimately your fear of asking people for things is selfish. Mine was.

I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be effective.

Big mistake.

Ask. Tell people (specifically) what you want them to do. 

People respect a call to action.

Be specific, as in ‘What I’d like everyone to today is X.  What that means is Y. So will you respond? The cause is too important for you not to.

Yep, that’s bold.

But guess what happens when you specifically call people to action?

People respond.

See Another Reason?

When you cast vision, what stops people from responding to it.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Grow Your Church And Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

By the way, it’s an exciting month around here.

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

The book focuses on 7 conversations I think can help your church grow and become healthier than ever before. That’s why I’m so excited to get it into your hands and the hands of your leadership team.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2

How to Get More Personal and Organization Momentum Starting Now

Chance are you would like some of what every leader would like—momentum.

All of us hit both personal and organizational plateaus.

And if you’re not careful, you can get stuck there, sometimes for far too long.

Sometimes the answers on how to get momentum can prove elusive until you’ve discovered the right questions.

Here are 7 questions I’ve collected over my time in leadership that I ask myself on a semi-regular basis to push through to the next level and find momentum.

While I can’t guarantee they will help you, I promise you they have helped me and our team get unstuck over and over again.

7 Questions That Can Fuel Momentum

Here are 7 questions that help me find momentum:

1. What’s your sweet spot and how much of your time are you spending in it these days? 

You may be good at many things, but you’re actually only great at a few things.

And you’re only truly passionate about a few things.

The more you can align your gifting and passion with how you spend your time, the more effective you will be.

Sure, in start up mode, you need to do a little of everything, but over time, the more you spend doing what you’re best at, the more you will love what you do and the greater value you’ll bring to your team and cause.

2. In your weekly routine, what are you having to manufacture energy to do? Who else could do that?

Someone else loves to do what you hate to do. Some people really love spreadsheets. (I don’t.)

Give them that work. Contrary to what you think, they’ll be grateful.

When you sit on something you don’t like doing and are not good at doing, you deny someone else an opportunity.

Plus, you sap your strength.

3. Who are you spending time with that you don’t need to be spending time with? 

This is a huge question. Don’t overlook it.

It’s tempting to think you have to spend your time with whoever asks to meet with you.

As I shared here, that’s almost always a mistake.

I spend almost no time with the people who attend our church because we have groups for that. In fact, I couldn’t lead a church our size if I spent all week meeting people who attend our church.

I focus my time on my direct reports, on staff, and on our elders. If our team is healthy at the top, it will be healthy throughout the church. So I focus on keeping our key leaders healthy and aligned.

I also make time for leaders and coaches who sharpen me. Because of that, the people who attend our church have a much better experience relationally (they connect with each other) and spiritually (the community is healthy) than if I tried to meet with all of them (which would, actually, be impossible).

4. Who are you not spending time with that you need to be spending time with?

Usually you spend time with people who are causing the most issues or friction in the organization, and you ignore you best leaders because they don’t ‘need’ you.

Flip that.

Spend most of your time with your best leaders. It will fuel momentum and create a positive, healthy culture.

Plus, you’ll love how you spend your days far more. Spending your time on perpetual crisis management kills momentum.

5. How can I put more fuel behind the areas that are seeing the most traction? 

Just like you need to spend most of your time with your best leaders, you and your organization should spend most of your time focusing your efforts on what’s producing the majority of your results.

If you can apply the Pareto Principle to all areas of your organization, you’ll go further.

For example, let’s say your kids ministry is seeing huge growth right now. Do you give resources to other areas that are weaker, or do you give more money and resources to kids ministry to further their growth?

I would vote for giving more money and resources to kids ministry. And then jump to question 6, below.

6. What areas of your ministry are seeing the least traction? 

Kill what’s not working. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, “It doesn’t take a leader to kill what’s dead. It does take a leader to kill what’s living.”

You need to prune and cut your organization as much as possible to fuel momentum. In the same way a pruned apple tree grows more apples, a pruned ministry bears more fruit.

7. If you were an outside consultant, what would you tell you and your team to do?

I love this question.

It might seems a little strange, but it will give you distance.

If you were an outsider, what would you tell yourself to do? Often you know the answer to this…you’re just afraid to say it.

So say it.

And then once you figure that out, just go do it. Often answering that question can lead to a breakthrough.

Pre-Order My New Book To Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

Want more on how to make your church grow and create momentum?

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time, pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to order your copy now. Hurry. The bonuses go away soon.7.1_ModHmPg_v2What Questions Do You Ask?

What questions would you add to this list?

What are you learning about momentum? Scroll down and leave a comment!


6 Things Christians Say That Sound Like Faithfulness…But Aren’t

I’ve heard it so many times.

Well, we’re just being faithful.

Sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and say, No, you’re not being faithful. You’re being ________(fill in the blank with whatever is a more accurate description of what you think they’re being).

Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most destructive.

They prevent us from:

Seeing ourselves accurately.

Clearly hearing what God has to say.

Seeing ourselves as others see us.

Self-deception is one of the most intense enemies a person can face.

One of the best things you can do is tell yourself the truth. And then live and lead out of that truth.

So, in the name of increasing self-awareness, here are six things Christians say that they think are signs of faithfulness that most often…just aren’t.

faithulness1. I’m just speaking the truth

How many times have you been told by another Christian that they’re ‘just speaking the truth’, when a more honest assessment might be ‘no, you’re not; you’re just being a jerk.’

Too many Christians try to pass off being abrasive and being self-righteous as being truthful.

If you’re speaking for Jesus, you just can’t separate grace and truth. You can’t.

Speak the truth in love. You’d be amazed at how much more effective it is.

2. We’re small, but we’re faithful

This of course, might actually be true. Small churches have many faithful leaders and people in them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a small church.

But being a small church does not automatically mean you are being faithful. I’ve heard many leaders claim to be small and faithful when in fact, the more likely case is they’re small because they’re being ineffective.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark sparked quite a debate and a good deal of defensiveness on the part of many church leaders.

Being small is not a sign of faithfulness. Not inherently. Sometimes you’re small because you’re ineffective. And sometimes you’re small for legitimate reasons. Just be honest about it.

3. We’re big because God is blessing us

Being a big church doesn’t necessarily mean that God is blessing your church. By that logic, anything that’s growing could claim God’s blessing (like an expanding street gang or a thriving black market business).

Large does not automatically equal faithful any more than small does.

You can grow a church without Christ. You shouldn’t, but you could.

Growth is, in my view, a sign of health. But being big does not mean you’re being faithful or healthy.

On the other hand (and I say this because so many people take easy shots at large churches), many large churches are faithful. Being large is not evidence you are unfaithful.

You can be small and be faithful. And you can be large and faithful. And the opposite is true.

By the way, if you want a refreshing take on the large church v. small church debate, listen to my interview with Karl Vaters. I’m from a larger church. He’s from a smaller church, and we actually get along. Here’s the direct link to iTunes where the interview is Episode 30.

4. I’m just misunderstood

A surprising number of people feel misunderstood.

And they say things like “Jesus was misunderstood, and so were the prophets.”  Well, yes. But the people who frequently claim to be misunderstood might find that changes if they learn to communicate more directly and more clearly.

Often Christians who claim to be misunderstood simply lack self-awareness.

Sure, there are moments in every person’s life where each of us is genuinely misunderstood. Some people, though, seem to frequently feel misunderstood. As in almost all the time. 

If you want to increase your self-awareness, here’s a post on four things self-aware people know that others don’t.

5. I’m being persecuted for my faith 

I live in North America. So do about 80% of the readers of this blog.

Move outside North America or the West, and you quickly find yourself in a world in which people get burned alive or beheaded for attending church or worshipping Christ. A world in which families lose their homes and livelihood for their allegiance to Jesus.

That is persecution.

Many North American Christian claim to be persecuted when in reality, their social skills need improving (see numbers 1 and 4 above).

Having someone get mad at you is not always persecution.

Having someone laugh at you for your faith is not persecution.

Nor is the brake job you need on your car ‘persecution’ (it’s just a brake job).

Or losing your bid on a dream home in a bidding war. Even if you lost out because someone doesn’t like Christians, that’s not exactly suffering for your faith.

If you think you’re being persecuted for your faith in North America, travel more.

6. I’m taking a Biblical approach

I’ve seen more than a few leaders claim to be taking a Biblical approach as soon as they start to feel threatened or inferior to someone else.

Implicit in this claim is a sense that anyone who is doing better, growing faster or seeing more traction has cheated or sold out. Undertone: I’m being biblical…they’re not.

Progress doesn’t always come immediately, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Sometimes Christians claim to be faithful when, in fact, they’re just being ineffective.

What’s needed is greater diligence, a better strategy, a better team, a fresh perspective and a push past the jealousy and envy we all sometimes feel.

So get some gut level honesty.

Why not just say “I’m happy for them” and then get to work on the things God has given you?

Anything You’d Add?

I know this is a bit of a tough post. But if we learned to call things for what they really are, wouldn’t we all be further ahead?

I’d love for you to add to this list. What else have you seen people call ‘faithfulness’ that isn’t?

Pre-Order My New Book and Get the Early Bird Bonuses

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, is available now for pre-order.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to order your copy now.


character tests

5 Character Tests Every Great Leader Passes

The longer I lead and the more I see, the more I’m convinced that character ultimately determines a leader’s true success.

Moral failure takes out more leaders than it should. But real success is deeper than just avoiding the ditch.

So where does the deepest level of leadership success come from? Ultimately it doesn’t come from a leader’s skill set; it comes from a leader’s character.

Your character determines your true capacity.

Why is that?

Character—far more than skill set—determines how deeply and passionately people follow you. A leader with character is a leader worth following.

A leader who lacks integrity may have followers, but he’ll never gain their full trust or their hearts.

After all, we all know highly skilled leaders who are never truly embraced; they’re merely tolerated.

Character, more than anything else, draws the hearts of people to your leadership.

The greatest leaders are highly skilled people whom other people love to be around. They’re people others admire, not just because they’re smart, but because they’re the kind of person other people want to become.

character testsSo how do you know whether your character passes the test?

In my view, the greatest leaders I know pass all five of these character tests many others fail.

1. Handling success

Often people will ask you how you handled your last failure. And that’s not an entirely bad question.

But how you handle your success is a far greater test.

Failure is, by nature, humiliating. It crushes pride.

Success does the opposite. It naturally inflates a leader’s pride. It’s intoxicating.

It takes both great self-awareness and great self-control to handle success. To not let the reports of your own brilliance or accomplishments go to your head.

The very best leaders remain humble, grounded and even self-deprecating. They don’t claim every perk of office and regularly help people who can’t help them back.

They avoid the gravitational pull of self-focus and, instead, stay focused on the mission before them and before everyone.

The ultimate test of a leader’s character is not failure, it’s success.

2. Being misunderstood

At some point, every leader will be misunderstood.

People will say things about you behind your back (or to your face) that aren’t true. People will judge your motives and get it wrong.

Sometimes you’ll only be allowed to say certain things in public, not because you’re being secretive, but because revealing all the information would make others look bad or would be breaking confidence. So instead, you look bad.

That’s just the territory of leadership.

Leadership is a bit like parenting. You have to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing. I’ve been there many times as a leader (and as a parent).

Great leaders have forged enough character to overcome the incessant desire to be liked. (Here are 3 hard but powerful truths about likability and leadership).

They are prepared to be misunderstood for a season, knowing that usually the truth comes out in the end.

And even if the truth doesn’t emerge in a particular instance, great leaders know that the overall track record of their leadership and character will speak for itself over time.

3. How it’s going at home

Success is intoxicating. And leadership is rewarding.

People generally do what you ask them to do. Results can be measured. And progress is steady. Sometimes its even exponential.

If only it was that easy to home.

Many leaders who are successes at work end up being failures at home, and that’s not success.

Your spouse isn’t impressed with your stats. Your kids don’t care about your awards.

They just need you.

They simply want you.

Too many leaders impose the high standards they carry at work on their family at home.

Your family doesn’t work for you.

They love you (or at least they used to). And they want you to love them.

4. Who you are when no one’s looking

What is character?

It’s who you are when the spotlight’s not on you.

The best leaders are the same on stage or in the boardroom as they are in a private meeting.

They’re the same when they’re with one person as they are when they’re with a thousand.

And the truly great ones are the same when absolutely no one is around.

As John Wooden famously said, he true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

5. Helping people who can’t help you

If you’re not careful, the more successful you become, the more likely you will be to spend time only with those who can help you get to the next stage of whatever you’re trying to do.

You almost naturally become a social climber.

The greatest leaders will resist this pull. It’s not that they won’t spend time with other people who are as successful or more successful than they are. It’s that they will still spend time with people who aren’t.

The greatest leaders regularly find time to help people who can’t help them back.

And not just as a charity project…but because it’s just who they are.

They’re not so impressed by themselves that they can’t spend time with people who might not be impressed with them.

They’re not so caught up in what’s next that they can’t spend meaningful time with someone who isn’t on the same journey.

Sure…they’re still strategic with their time, but they have a deep sense of grounding that reminds them that life is indeed about others, not just about them.

What Would You Add?

The great leaders I know pass all five of these character tests.

What are you seeing? Is there another character test you’d add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

church is going extinct

11 Signs Your Church Is Going Extinct

In all the conversation among church leaders about the future of the church and declining attendance, the question remains, how’s your church doing?

Sometimes that can be difficult to discern.

Unless you’re in a free fall right now, it can be hard to know whether your congregation will thrive, survive or take a dive in the next decade.

But like most things in life, there are signs right now that will point to the direction in which you’re headed.

And if you can know now, why wait?

I am a firm believer that The Church (capital C Church) will survive and even thrive, but it will look different than it does now.

But in the meantime, amidst a rapidly changing culture, many individual congregations are endangered species. They could easily become extinct.

Change always brings dislocation, death and renewal. Personally, I want as many churches as possible to be on the side of renewal.

And that starts with an honest assessment of where you are as a church today.

church is going extinctI believe there are signs you can observe today that will tell you whether your church is going extinct.

These signs are quick gut checks that you can assess easily that will hopefully lead to deeper conversation and change.

If you want to go deeper, listen in on my conversation with Thom Rainer who outlines some other characteristics he sees in dying churches. You can listen on iTunes here or tune in below.  (You can  also check out more from Thom here on his blog.)

11 Signs Your Church Is Going Extinct

If your church is showing one or two of these signs, some change is in order to optimally position your congregation for the future.

If it’s showing more than half of the signs, then in my view there’s some serious work to be done. If it’s showing most or all of the signs, it’s time for some prayerful and radical repentance and reinvention before it’s too late.

1. No sense of urgency

Growing churches have an exceptional sense of urgency. Stagnant and declining churches don’t.

If every Sunday is just another Sunday—and you don’t have a burning sense that lives and eternity hang in the balance—then you’ve lost the edge that all great churches, preachers and movements share.

2. Urgency about the wrong things

It’s not that dying churches don’t have any sense of urgency. In fact, they will often feel urgency about two things: the budget and survival.

If your motive for growth is financial, you should probably close your doors or open your heart. Unchurched people can smell it a mile away when you see them as simply a means to an end.

Resources and people follow vision. If your only vision is to stay afloat, the end is near.

3. Decline has made you cautious

Growing churches take risks. Stagnant or declining churches don’t.

Churches that aren’t growing often end up in preservation mode—they try to converse what little they already have rather than risk it to grow again.

This is a critical mistake.

Ask yourself, when was the last time we took a real risk? If you can’t answer that, you’re far too cautious.

4. Success has made you cautious

It’s not just stagnation or decline that makes leaders cautious, success does it too.

Sometimes you become so successful you become afraid to break the formula. So you become cautious. You stop innovating. You risk little.

The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

5. Your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future

Stuck or declining churches are nostalgic churches. They remember when everything was amazing, which clearly isn’t today.

To figure this out, listen to the way people talk. Is there an excitement for what’s next, or mostly a longing for what was?

When your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future, you’re in trouble.

6. You don’t understand the changing culture

Stagnant and declining churches often see a gap develop between them and the culture.

Because nothing has changed in a decade—or several decades—the world is seen at best as something they don’t understand, or at worst, as an enemy.

Outsiders who come in see a church like that as, at best, quaint, and more likely as irrelevant and misguided.

Jesus loved the world enough to die for it. The church should love the world enough to reach it.

7. You haven’t got new leaders around the table

Look around you. Are most of the people on your team the same people who were there five years ago?

I’m not advocating for high turnover in staff, but in far too many churches there is no plan to renew leadership.

Churches who position themselves for future impact intentionally integrate new voices and new leaders around the table.  I try to keep a balance of established, trusted voices and new voices around our table.

If all the people around your table are the same as 5 years ago, you might just all be 5 years older, not 5 years better.

8. You mostly listen to the voices of current members

When you make decisions, who are you listening to?

Hopefully, (naturally) to the voice of God and to scripture.

But when it comes to human voices…whose wins the day?

Too often, the voice of current church members drowns out the voice of the unchurched people you’re trying to reach.

In fact, smart church leaders will intentionally hang out with unchurched people and bring their voice to the table. How you do that is up to you. That you do it is critical.

9. Your conflict is about all the wrong things

There will always be some level of conflict whenever human beings gather, so what’s your conflict about?

Dying churches spend their energy fighting each other and fighting change.

Growing churches spend their energy fighting for new opportunities to reach unchurched people and speaking up for the change that will impact their lives.

10. Any growth you have is transfer growth

But wait, some will say, we’re growing. We had some new members last year!

That’s awesome. But who are you reaching?

If your growth is mostly transfer growth, you’re pulling from an ever-smaller pool of people.

If you’re reaching unchurched people with little or no church background, the future is much brighter.

11. The core team is not fundamentally healthy

How does your leadership get along?

Do you like hanging out with each other? Do you resolve conflict directly, quickly and effectively?

Are you growing in your faith and in your skill set?

Are you living in a way today-physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally—that will help you thrive tomorrow?

Are you aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy? (Here are five things North Point has taught me about team alignment.)

If you can answer yes to most of those questions, you’re healthy.

If not, there’s some work to do.

But here’s the truth: health at the top is health at the bottom. Dysfunction at the top is dysfunction at the bottom.

If you want a healthy church, grow a healthy leadership team.

Other Signs?

Those are 11 signs I see that a congregation might be going extinct.

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


Want More Conversation?

Interested in helping your church grow and get healthy? My new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, launches next month (September 2015).

Sign up here to get all the details when Lasting Impact releases so you don’t miss a thing.

I’m also on Periscope (I’m @careynieuwhof) and will be Periscoping some Q and A on this post the week of its release.

ready to handle more

Want More As A Leader? 5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle It

So you’re probably hoping for more. Almost every leader does.

More people.

More team.

More responsibility.

More money.

More opportunity.

More of, well you know, more of almost anything.

Most of us leader types are rarely satisfied with the status quo.

You may want more, but are you ready for more?

Could you handle it if it came your way?

ready to handle more

When I think back to when I was a young leader, I know there were more than a few seasons when I wasn’t ready for more, even when more came my way.

I was a solo pastor for the first few years, working alone out of my basement because none of the churches I served even had an office.

We had hired a few part time staff, and after a few years of part timers, I was ready to hire our first other full time staff member.

I remember a corporate coach who attended our church asking me “Are you ready to handle leading a team?”

And I remember telling her, more out of pride and bravado than wisdom, that I was, thank you very much.

It was a polite conversation, but I was wrong. Actually, it was just foolish not to take her advice.

As my friend Casey Graham told me, more people make your problems more apparent.

I would learn over the next few years what it meant to lead a team in a rapidly growing church. I could have gone further faster had I listened.

So how do you know if you’re ready?

5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle More as A Leader

Here are the signs I’ve seen in myself and in the leaders around me that signal I might be ready to handle more. And the inverse has been true too—when these signs aren’t present, I haven’t been ready.

Here are 5 signs you’re ready to handle more as a leader and some links if you want to dig deeper:

1. You’ve built a better system

As you grow, you need better systems. A system is simply  a way of operating.

You have a system. Your church has a system – a way of doing things. For most smaller organizations, the system might be as simple as ‘wing it’.  But even if you’re winging it, that’s a system. And it’s a system that won’t scale.

If you drill down and ask around, you would discover that you do have a system, even if it’s not a great one.

And, as we all know, your current system is designed to get you the results you’re currently getting.  If you don’t like the results, change your system.

I wrote about systems that handle growth in this post on how to break the 200 attendance barrier, and again in this post on the systems needed to guide your church beyond 200, 400 and 800.

2. You’re working through your personal issues

Having more won’t make your personal issues go away…having more will make them worse.

You’re going to have more problems as you grow, and the problems will be more complex. This demands a greater degree of focus and leadership and naturally gives you less margin.

That’s a perfect recipe for your unresolved issues to bubble up.

Suddenly you’ll discover you’re more jealous, envious, angry, paranoid, worried, reclusive or fill-in-the-issue-here than you ever thought you were.

As we grew, I found I had to wrestle down my personal issues or I would implode or explode. I spent significant amounts of time in the office of Christian counselors working through my issues.

Obviously, that’s a life long process (sanctification always is). But hopefully you’re not working on exactly the same issues year after year.

As you work through your personal issues, your ability to handle challenges, people and responsibility grows.

3. You’re passing the character test

As I outlined in this post, character, not competency, determines your true capacity.

Character is related to working through your personal issues (above, #2). But it’s deeper than that.

Character is the foundation that a solid ministry and organization is built on. You will only go as far as your character will take you.

If you want a quick gut check on how you character is these days, this post outlines 5 signs you lack integrity.

And this post lists five ways to build your integrity.

You will only go as far as your character will take you. If you’ve been working hard on your character, it’s a sign you may be ready for more.

4.  You have the right senior leaders in place

You’ve heard it said, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team.

That’s just true.

But you also need to have the right team.

I look for leaders with character, who are aligned with the mission, vision and strategy, and leaders who have a spiritual maturity and tactical ability to advance our mission.

If you are wondering why you don’t have more high capacity leaders on your team, this post outlines 6 reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers.

And this post outlines 3 key ingredients I look for in people who form my inner circle.

Finally, my interview with Chris Lema, below, explains how to build a high performing team from scratch.

5. You’re more mature than you were a few years ago

Another year older does not equal another year of maturity.

I’ve known some exceptionally mature 25 year olds and some exceptionally immature 45 year olds. I’ll take a mature 25 year old over an immature 45 year old any day.

Maturity is a combination of time, skill and character.

So the question is: are you growing in maturity? Are you wiser than you were two years ago or five years ago? If the answer is yes, you might be ready for more.

We’ve covered the character issues above, but if you’re looking for a short cut to the skill part as a young leader (there are short cuts), this post outlines 7 practical things younger leaders can do to help them excel in the workplace.

More of Everything

The upside, of course, is that if you work on your character, systems, team and skill set, you will be positioned to handle more.

What’s really awesome is that you’ll be positioned to handle more not just in ministry, but at home and in life. The skills are directly transferrable.

Growing in all these things have helped me not only become a better leader, but a better husband, father, neighbour and even friend. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s good to see progress.

What has helped you get ready to handle more?

Anything you’ve seen that signals someone’s ready for more?

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