From Mission

The Impending Death (and Rebirth) of Cool Church

Everything has its season.

And the season of the cool church is, in many ways, coming to an end.

There was an era when simply being a cooler church than the church down the road helped churches reach unchurched people.

There was a day when all you had to do was improve the church you led to gain traction.

Trade in the choir for a band. Turn the chancel into a platform. Add some lights, some sound, some haze. Get some great teaching in the room. And voila, you had a growing church.

But we’re quickly moving into a season where having a cool church is like having the best choir in town: it’s wonderful for the handful of people who still listen to choral music.

Somethings changing. And a hundreds of thousands of dollars in lights and great sound gear are probably not going to impact your community like they used to.

So what’s changing? Plenty.

Cool Isn’t Enough (Anymore)

You might think I’m against churches have bands, lights, and creating a great environment. Not at all. In fact, as we speak, our team is building a facility for the church at which I serve that facilitates all of that.

If you are going to gather people, gather well.

My point is not that you shouldn’t.  My point is that it’s no longer enough.

And maybe it never was.

The mega-churches many of us watch today didn’t get to be as effective as they are simply by being cool.

If you really study how most large churches have become effective in leading people to Jesus (and yes—haters step aside—many large churches are effective in leading people into a real relationship with Jesus Christ), they have always been about more than just lights, sound and show. There’s substance. More substance than critics would ever give them credit for.

Are mega-churches universally healthy? No.

But neither are many small churches. In fact, sometimes the dysfunction in small churches eclipses that of medium sized or large churches.

As Geoff Surratt has so helpfully pointed out, you can’t say that just because a few mega-churches have collapsed that they are all the same. Churches like North Point, New Spring, Cross Point,  SeaCoast and Life Church, to name a few, have developed great leaders on their local campuses and across their teams. They’ve moved far beyond a structure based on one ‘famous’ name.

So why would cool church be fading into the sunset?

3 Reasons Cool Church Isn’t What It Used To Be

Decades ago as cool church started to take root among very large, rapidly growing churches, many other, smaller churches and church plants followed suit.

And for a season, it ‘worked’.

Getting some awesome lights, better sound, better music, and a slightly more hip communicator grew churches.

Sure, some of the growth was transfer growth, but a big percentage of what many churches experienced was not transfer growth. People invited their friends and their friends came back.

So what’s changing?

But now most cities have a great selection of cool churches. Many towns have at least one.

It’s no longer unusual to have a band in church. It’s not even that novel to have lights and great sound or to play all the cool songs.

And…in the process of all this imitation, three things happened:

1. Cutting edge keeps changing…fast

What was novel isn’t novel as novel for long anymore.

The rise of technology and social media means that you now hold access to pretty much anything you want in your hand whenever you want to.

You used to have to hire experts or do some exploring to find cool things.  Sometimes you even had to travel. Now you just download an app, watch a video, stream a song or follow whatever trend you’re passionate about in the moment—whenever you want to. Instantly. Usually for free.

Consequently, there’s kind of a trend-fatigue or indifference happening. Trends are shorter, less interesting, and we’re all growing oh-so-bored with what’s novel.

Which means that it’s harder than ever for churches to be cutting edge because cutting edge keeps changing.

2. Indifference to church has grown 

As this helpful Barna research points out, even in the US, people are increasingly indifferent to church.  That’s certainly been true in Canada, Europe and in places like Australia and New Zealand for a while.

So a decade ago having a cool church would have gotten you more traction than it does today.

If people aren’t into church, it doesn’t matter how cool, hip or trendy your church is, people won’t be that interested.

You behave this way. If you’re on a health kick, you’re not going to order the burger and fries, even if they are the best in town. And if you’re not on a healthy kick, the spinach, arugula, kale salad with tuna isn’t going to capture your imagination, no matter how healthy it is.

3. Imitation killed innovation

Of all three points, this one probably bothers me the most.

To begin with, when churches imitate each other, we rarely borrow all the best practices—we just borrow the ones that are easy to see or seem obvious.

But what’s made growing churches grow is deeper than the cool factor. Consequently, leaders who finally get what they were longing for—a cool church—are often shocked to discover they don’t deliver what they promised.

And in the process of all that imitation something even more important is lost: innovation.

What’s needed now more than ever is church leaders willing to pioneer….to go deep into a culture that keeps changing to reach people who are increasingly resistant.

What’s needed most as we look at what’s ahead is innovation. And it’s sorely lacking among many church leaders.

Should you never imitate? No…that’s not wise either. To refuse to borrow best practices from others is arrogant and, to a large extent, futile thinking.

The point is simply this: don’t let imitation kill innovation at your church.

Irrelevance Isn’t the Answer Either

So should you run from all things cool, trendy or hip?


Relevance is better than irrelevance.

The answer to the challenge of keeping up with relevance is not to return to irrelevance.

Relevant church has many critics, but to not bridge the cultural gap is even more ludicrous (in my view) than trying to bridge it and maybe failing.

To agree to be irrelevant, ineffective and bad at what you do is a terrible option.

So what do we do as we head into the future?

5 Keys to Rebirth

The church can take many forms. But for all those leaders who, like me, believe in gathering people together for the sake of a larger mission, what does the future look like?

I think you stay relevant (and maybe even a bit cool), but you go beyond that. Dig deeper.

Here are 5 keys I see to a future of greater impact. In many ways, they are the new cool. Authenticity is the new cool. The mission is the new cool. Hope is the new cool. Community is the new cool. And so is experimentation.

1.  Authenticity

Sometimes under cool is an inauthenticity. Dump that.

Authentic resonates. People are looking for what’s real, what’s true and what’s authentic.

Here’s a post on how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

2. Prioritize the Mission

The church has always been about something bigger than itself. At the centre of our mission is Christ.

A church that is focused on a larger mission will never become self-obsessed. Cool can carry with it a sense of narcissism.

You lose your narcissism when you lose yourself in a bigger mission.

And that, by the way, is something Millennials are longing to give their lives to.

3. Deal Hope

We leaders are dealers in hope.

And Christianity provides more hope than anything.

I’m 100% behind making messages practical, applicable and helpful. I think the Gospel is that. But it is also much more than that.

If all we have is this life, we’re to be pitied more than anyone (pretty sure the Bible says something about that).

In an age where all most people see is that which is imminent, people need to be ushered into the presence of Someone who is transcendent.

Christianity at it’s best has always been about both imminence and transcendence.

4. Elevate Community

I’m all for lights, sound, relevance and even video walls if they help the mission.

But as my friend Reggie Joiner says, the church will never be able to out-Disney Disney.

And that’s true, we will never have the budget or resources to entertain or engage the best. But even if we did…what would be the point?

While we can’t out-Disney Disney, no one should be able to out-community the local church.

God is in the people business. He loves us. And the goal is to connect people with Christ and with each other.

As your church grows bigger, it also needs to grow smaller by connecting people relationally. I know we’ve said this for years, but it’s never been more urgent.

5. Experiment

Experimenting is the key to innovation.

And, as we’ve seen, in an age of imitation in the church, innovation has been sidelined.

Bring that back.

Do what you do now, but start experimenting on the side to see what’s really going to make the biggest impact in the future.

The truth is I don’t think anyone knows what that is right now.

But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

If you’re looking for more, here are 11 traits of churches that will impact the future.

What Do You Think?

What are you seeing in the church today.

It’s easy to criticize, but what can you add in terms of contribution?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Socially-Acceptable Ways Church Leaders Self-Medicate

Let me guess.

You’re so busy caring for others (people in your church, your kids, your family, your friends) that you haven’t really taken great care of yourself lately, have you?

Welcome to leadership. Especially church leadership.

You run hard. You work long hours.

And you’re so busy caring for others you forgot to care for yourself.

Usually when I ask church leaders how they’re doing personally, they admit they don’t take great care of themselves.

And when you don’t take great care of yourself, guess what you end up doing in almost every single case?

You end up self-medicating.

Every leader has a choice between self-care and self-medication, and subconsciously, many choose the ‘polite’ version of self-medication.

Do you? And how would you know if you did?


What’s Self-Medication?

I had never heard of the term ‘self-medication‘ until I got married.

But my wife Toni is a health care professional and she uses it to describe what people do to cope with the stress, anxiety and difficulty in life.

When stress and life overwhelm you, you will either choose to respond to it in a healthy way (self-care) or an unhealthy way (self-medication).

And when you think of self-medication, don’t just think of pills or alcohol. As we’ll see below, there are some very ‘socially-acceptable’ ways even for Christians to self-medicate.

But the results are still numbing.

The choice is yours, but the first reality is this: Self-care is so much healthier than self-medicating.

The second reality is just as important: If you don’t intentionally choose self-care as a leader, you’ll end up self-medicating.

5 Socially Acceptable Ways Christian Leaders Self-Medicate

1. Overeating.

Being overweight or even obese is almost normal in some Christian circles.

As someone who has to watch my weight very carefully (and who does not understand how anyone can be a natural bean pole), I empathize. And I also know I often eat when I’m not hungry, but when I’m upset or just bored.

Food is the drug of choice for many Christian leaders.

2.  Working More 

Again, working too many hours is socially acceptable, even rewardable in some circles.

As a recovering workaholic, I know. But all work and no play doesn’t just make you dull, it makes you disobedient.

It’s ironic, but the way some leaders cope with the stress associated with work is by working more. It numbs the pain.

3. Gossip 

It’s just a theory, but I think when we feel bad about ourselves, we say bad things about other people.

Often church leaders who have failed to care for themselves end up with enough toxin inside that they want to take down others. In many churches, prayer requests are thinly disguised gossip sessions. And too often Christians would rather talk about someone and their terrible misfortunes than help them.

That’s just sinful.

4.  Spending

Whether it’s retail therapy at the mall, ordering more of your favourite pursuit online, or the constant climb into a bigger house, a better car, the latest tech or the latest trend, Christians can easily numb their pain endlessly accumulating things that end up in a landfill site one day.

5. Under-the-Radar Substance Abuse

Sure, you’re probably not going to develop a cocaine addiction. But sometimes it can be more subtle than that.

Whether it’s a drink every day when you get home or an overuse or misuse of your legitimate prescription, Christian leaders can fall into the classic pattern of turning to a substance rather than turning to God for relief.

So if you don’t want to end up self-medicating, what do you do?

10 Healthy Options for Self-Care

The best thing you can do as a leader is take good care of yourself.

When you carve out time to take care of yourself, you’ll always be in a better position to take care of others.

There’s nothing truly new in these ten options, but when you do them they have a staggeringly positive impact on your personal health and well being, spiritual and otherwise.

1. A great daily time with God.

Whatever method you use (here are some ideas), time with God matters. And your personal walk with God is often a casualty of ministry. Why is that? Shouldn’t be!

2. Exercise

Being out of shape physically means you will never be in top shape mentally or emotionally. I don’t like exercise either, so I invested in a road bike.

I get asked all the time what I ride, so here you go: a 2009 Specialized Roubaix. And I bought it used (1/3 of its original price). It doesn’t have to break the bank.  And yes, I love it!

3. A healthy diet

You are what you eat. Dumping the processed foods for whole foods can make a big difference.

4. Proper sleep

If I don’t get 7-8 hours semi-regularly, I feel it. Sadly, sometimes others do too.

I really think sleep is one of the most-underrated leadership secret weapons there is. Here’s why.

5. Intentional white space in your calendar 

You can schedule time off and down time in the same way you schedule meetings. Just do it! I wrote a post on time management that links to many time management tips here.

6. Healthy friendships

Ministry can be draining.

When was the last time you hung out with a friend you didn’t need to ‘minister to’? Who makes you laugh until you cry?

Go hang out with them. Regular doses of life-giving relationships can make such a difference.

7. Margin 

I am kindest when I have the most margin. This is true in terms of my calendar, but also true of finances.

How can you be generous with your heart, time, money and attitude if you have nothing left to give?

8. Hobbies

Writing, blogging  and podcasting are my hobbies these days.

You can be much more interesting than that. Take some pictures. Take up hiking. Get crafty. Study the constellations.

9. Family Time

Take a road trip, go out for dinner. Have some fun!

Play hockey in the driveway or shoot hoops.

10. Coaching and counseling. 

For about 12 years I’ve had coaches and counselors who have helped me get through road bumps and life issues. Invaluable.

Yes I pay them money, but it’s an investment in my family, my church and my life. I’m different and better for it.

Better Than The Alternative

I know at the end of my life, I will be so much better for pursing the path of self-care rather than the path of self-medication.

One takes intentional planning, but it’s so worth it.

Eventually leaders who don’t care for themselves but still avoid self-medication end up burning out. If you haven’t heard Perry Noble’s incredible story about burning out while at the top of his leadership game, don’t miss it. Perry and I have also put together a lot of resources here to help leaders who think they might be burning out.

What are you learning about self-care? How have you seen people self-medicate?

I’d love to hear what you’re learning on this!

7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does

So what do you do if you want things to change and pretty much no one else does?

Your team doesn’t appear to be listening. 

The leaders or board above you are opposed.

The culture in your organization is stale 

That’s a tough situation in which almost every leader finds themselves from time to time.

Clearly, you should pray. God uses our circumstances to push us closer to him.  But what practical responses should you formulate?

Many natural instincts are unhelpful in situations like this. Being impatient, critical and blaming others is counterproductive.

So what do you do?

There are at least 7 things you can do if you want to things to change and no one else does.

what to change when you can't change things

1. Cast Vision

Nothing attracts people and resources like vision. And vision always precedes people and resources.

If you’re having trouble attracting people and resources to a better vision of the future, it might be because you simply haven’t cast a clear enough vision of a preferred future.

It eventually becomes difficult not to follow a visionary leader. And if your vision is faithful to scripture and a sensible interpretation of where to head in the future, it will likely be compelling.

Will it always work? No. (See below for that.)

But far too many leaders quit before their vision is even articulated in any kind of compelling way.

You shouldn’t get angry at people for not following a vision you never told them about.

2. List All The Reasons You See For Change

Maybe change you want to make is obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean others see it.

So list every reason you see for the change. In writing.

You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just write it out for yourself.

This will do two things:

1. You’ll become privately convinced of the strength of your argument. Note: this cuts both ways. If there are few good reasons for the change, you could also talk yourself out of it (which would, of course, relieve your angst).

2. You’ll be more convincing when you talk about the change you’d love to see. Not that you’d walk around saying “And here’s another reason….” But if you’re cogent and make sense in conversation after conversation, you might change the tide of the discussion.

So grab a piece of paper or your Evernote, and make a list.

3. Change Yourself

You’re human. You’ll be tempted to focus only on the changes you’d like to see.

But the best leaders also see a great opportunity in a stalemate. They focus on changing themselves.

A stalemate is a great opportunity to grow in character and skill. If you become the healthiest, most self-aware, kindest member of the team, people will be attracted to you and what you have to say.

And you won’t be as busy trying to change them. Which might be a nice turn of events in some cases.

4. Change What You Can

So you can change yourself. And the best leaders will do that.

But there are probably some things you can also change. And yes, you’ll be tempted to rail against the things you can’t change. But again, why focus on that?

Ask yourself this: What can I change?

You’re in charge of something. Change it.

You might argue that you don’t have permission to change anything.

Sure you do. You can change the culture. Even if you’re in charge of a volunteer team of 5, make them the 5 best loved people in the church or organization. Create a super healthy team. Accomplish all you can accomplish. Do everything you’re capable of doing. Even a little more.

Others might sit up and take notice, realizing everyone would be better off if they did what you’re doing.

And even if no one notices, the 5 people you work with will notice. And they’ll be so thankful for it.

5. Publicly and Privately Support the Team

So you’ve got some personal growth happening and you’ve changed whatever is within your control.

You’ll still be tempted to rail against the leadership that just doesn’t get it.

Or you’ll be publicly loyal but privately critical—all smiles during the meeting but venomous over coffee.

Big mistake.

Integrity would demand that you be the same in public and in private.

Plus it’s a decent strategy. As Andy Stanley says, public loyalty buys you private leverage. When a leader knows you’ve been supportive, they’re more likely to listen to you, even if what you have to say (to their face) is critical.

If you’ve got an issue with someone, share it with that person directly. Otherwise, keep quiet.

6.  Weigh Your Options

Does this always turn out well? No, it doesn’t.

But churches (and every organization) would be so much healthier if people followed the course above.

So what happens if you’ve done all this and more and, still, nothing changes?

At this point I think you weigh your options. You need to decide whether you can live within a glass ceiling (things above you will likely not change), or whether it’s time to move on.

This is the time to prayerfully weigh your options, call in wise counsel and get them to give you advice and look at the pros and cons of staying v going.

When things don’t change, it might be time for you to make a change.

If it helps, I outlined 5 signs it’s time to move on in this post.

7. Make a Decision

Too many leaders I know get stuck in perpetual discontent because they refuse to make a decision.

When I ask them how long they’ve been disgruntled they’ll often tell me ‘for years’ or ‘since the beginning’. Really? Then why are you still there?

Either make peace with the limits you see, or move on.

The key is to make a decision. Decide to stay or decide to leave.

If you stay, accept the limits and play within them. Do all you can with all you are able to influence and control but know you’ve settled for something less than you once hoped for.

Or you might head into the brave frontier of the unknown.

Either way, decide. Because either way, you’ll be happier than you would be if you simply stay perpetually frustrated.

What Do You Think?

What have you learned about what do you if you want things to change but no one else does?

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

Why You Need to Play Favorites In Leadership (And Even In Ministry)

One of the biggest challenges you will face as a leader is figuring out how to treat people.

So what do you do?

Most of us decide we’ll simply treat everyone the same.

After all, it seems like the right thing to do. Anything else is just…wrong, elitist or even unChristian.

But treating everyone the same is one of the biggest leadership mistakes you can make.

The most effective leaders play favorites. They

Don’t treat everyone the same.

Won’t give access to everybody.

Spend very little time with low performers or problem people.

Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to

Treat everyone the same.

Give access to everyone who asks.

Spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.

So why are these bad practices as leader?

There are at least 3 ways NOT playing favorites harms your leadership and 3 ways to start doing it effectively.

 why leaders should play favourites

3 Ways NOT Playing Favorites Harms Your Leadership

So how does not playing favorites harm your leadership?

It harms your leadership (and ultimately your organization or church) in several key ways:

1. It creates time pressure you can’t manage.

Most of us leaders like to think we have super human stamina, but we don’t.

After all, it doesn’t take long before you have more demands on your time than you have time. You’re probably already there.

So what do most people instinctively do? We work more hours to fit it all in.

Bad strategy.

Time is fixed. It’s finite. You only get 168 hours a week.  And you should probably not work more than 60 of them if you’re going to be in this for the long haul.

Working more hours to meet all the demands on your time will fail you fast as a strategy.

Here’s what’s true.

When you give access to everyone you end up serving no one effectively.

You get stretched too far. And when you get stretched too far, you eventually break. You burn out (here are 9 signs you might be burning out).

So trying to meet all the needs around you in a growing ministry is a perfect strategy for personal burnout.

2. It limits the growth of your church (or organization) to 200-300 people.

Not playing favorites is also a perfect strategy for stunting the growth of your church or organization.

You simply can’t lead a larger church the same way you lead a smaller church. Yet many people insist on trying by doing all the pastoral care themselves, giving everyone access, helping to make every decision and trying to be all things to all people. After all, it’s only right to treat everyone the same.

In my view, this is the chief reason why the vast majority of churches never grow beyond 200 people. (I outline the other 7 reasons churches don’t grow past 200 in this post).

A gifted leader can grow a church to 200 people based on his or her personality and personal span of care, but that’s it. Then they burn out or the church gets frustrated because, now larger, the pastor isn’t keeping up with the demands anymore, and things implode or the church retreats back to a smaller size.

The same dynamic happens when you’re running a small business. Most businesses stay small because their founder doesn’t know how to build, empower and release a team.

The problem with treating everyone the same and giving access to everyone is that your church or organization doesn’t scale.

And if anything is designed to scale bigger, it should be the church, given our mission to bring Christ’s love to the world.

3. It makes you unfaithful.

Here’s the irony.

My guess is the main reason Christians struggle with playing favorites is that we instinctively think it’s not biblical.

Just the opposite. Not playing favorites makes you unfaithful.

I know, I know….what?????

We are not the first leaders to struggle with scaling our leadership and treating different people differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving everyone does not mean treating everyone the same way.

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

3 Ways to Play Favorites Effectively

I realize this is completely counterintuitive for most Christians.

But before you dismiss it, at least consider it.

So how should you start to play favorites?

Approach the shift with humility, with grace, and with prayer. But realize that to steward your gift of leadership effectively, you’re going to have to make the same tough calls that Moses, Jesus and the early church leaders made.

Here are three ways to play favorites in a way that helps everyone:

1. Spend the most time with your best leaders.

If you never think about how you spend your time, you’ll spend most of your time fighting fires.

You’ll ignore your best leaders (because they’re low maintenance) and spend all your time trying to prop up your weakest leaders or with people who simply always have problems (you know who I’m talking about).

The people you spend the most time with don’t have to be the smartest people or the richest people by any stretch (see below), but you should spend most of your time with the key people you’ve trusted most deeply to carry the mission forward.

Chances are they won’t ask for more of your time because they manage and lead themselves well. But they should get it anyway.

Like Jesus, spend most of your time with the people you are trusting to lead the mission and cause forward.

2. Release others to help others.

So do you just ignore everyone else, heartlessly?

Of course not.

Release others to help others.

The other shadow side of not playing favorites when you’re the leader is that your insistence on being the centre of everything disempowers other gifted people.

As you build a team, release others to help others. Moses did this. By organizing around leaders who could lead thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, everyone was cared for. Including Moses.

Think about that.

If you want to personally help everybody, you will eventually help nobody.

3. Make Time For Anyone, Just Not Everyone

Probably the biggest objection to playing favorites is that it will lead you to favoritism. As in well now you only hang out with rich and powerful people, right? 

And that would be a mistake. James 2 could not be clearer that we should not favor the rich over the poor.

So how do you handle this if you’re restricting access and deciding to play favorites?

Make time for anyone, even if you are not going to make time for everyone.

I keep some open appointments on my calendar for people who don’t fit my ‘closest’ leader categories.

It will help you stay in touch and help people realize this isn’t an elitist thing at all.

And for sure, you will likely get more requests than you can accommodate (I do), but it means you will stay in touch with a wide variety of people even if you can’t do it all the time.

So even when you play favorites, you can still make time for anyone, even if you don’t make time for everyone.

I Realize This is Counter-Intuitive

I realize this is counter-intuitive. If you want to drill down further,

I wrote a little more about the skill set leaders need to manage their time and leadership well in these posts.

A 6 Step Strategy on How to Say No Nicely

Why You Can’t Have 5 Minutes of My Time

The Top 10 Ways Leaders Waste Time (And 10 Time Hacks to Help You) 

In the meantime, what are you learning in this area? What’s difficult for you in making tough calls like this? What have you learned that can help other leaders?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 012: Strategic Leadership Lessons From Disney – An Interview with Steven Barr

What can your church or organization learn from Disney? More than you might think.

Disney is not just a fantastic family vacation, it’s an amazing leadership organization that has sharpened many leaders.

In today’s interview, I talk to Steven Barr, Executive Director of Cast Member Church in Orlando—a church created to minister exclusively to Disney employees, who are known as ‘cast members’.

Steve and I talk about Disney’s leadership strategies, how his church is reaching millennials and how to do niche ministry for particular groups of people.

Welcome to Episode 12 of the podcast.


Guest Links: Steven Barr

Steven Barr on Facebook

Steven Barr on Twitter

Cast Member Church 

Cast Member Church on Facebook

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Disney World 


The Reedy Creek Corporation

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

It can be a challenge when you’re learning about the needs of your employees or the group within your church you’re trying to lead.  Here are three things that can get you started on the right track.

  1. Believe in your people.  Everyone needs sometime to believe in them. Disney instills that value in its employees, as does Cast Member church. Coming from a place of, “We want you to be successful” changes the conversation and the outcome. Every person is worth the investment, worth the coaching. When you tell someone, “You can do this,” it instills in a team member the desire to improve.
  2. Scale care. Just because you’re a large organization doesn’t mean you have to be an uncaring organization. Empower your managers and leaders to care for the people around them, and you will have a caring organization or church. People need to know they matter. And while you personally can’t care for everyone, everyone can care for someone.
  3. Share your vision, strategy and values until they are contagious. Disney is so focused on vision that it’s owned by all 67,000 employees. Every one of them thinks like an owner and picks up trash. The value of keeping the park clean is so contagious, even guests will pick up trash if they see it lying around. That’s a contagious strategy and value system.

Quotes From Steven

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Next Episode: Derwin Gray

So is success…empty?

From making millions in the NFL, to leading one of America’s fastest growing churches, best-selling author Derwin Gray shares how success disapoints, and also explains how he’s positioned his church plant in Charlotte to reach thousands across racial boundaries.

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The Single Best Way to Lead Change in a Very Traditional, Old or Resistant Setting

I speak about change regularly. And you deal with change almost every week, if not every day.

The #1 question/conversation that comes up after one of my talks goes something like this:

Well, that’s great that you could lead change where you are. But you need to understand my context. My church is so (fill in the blanks here) old…traditional…resistant that I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I think it’s impossible. Is it?

I love that question.

One of the great consistencies in almost two decades of church leadership for me, is change.

We’ve changed everything, moving from three very traditional, dying mainline churches to a vibrant church that’s reaching unchurched people. And in between, everything has changed: our locations, our structure, our worship, our governance, our team and even our denominational affiliation.

So…is a church or organization ever too old, resistant or traditional to change?

My answer is that change is possible anywhere. That actually, it’s necessary. And at a bare minimum, change is worth the best shot you’ve got.

So is there a secret ingredient that can help you lead change in a traditional context far more effectively?

I think there is.

Before I share it, a few nuances for all of us.

change. resistance

First, Let’s Check Our Excuses

The grass is almost always greener on the other side of the leadership fence.

When it comes to change, most of us think it would be easier if we lead at another church or in another organization.

The reality is that ALL of us will struggle to lead change wherever we are.

As enthusiastic as we say we are about change, all of us resist it. That’s why you haven’t lost that final 10 pounds, haven’t cleaned out the hall closet nearly as often as you should, and haven’t started that blog you were going to launch/book you were going to write. All of that involves change, and we’re resistant.

Too many of us make too many excuses.

I wrote pretty directly about getting past your excuses in this post and again recently as one of the lessons from the collapse of Mars Hill Church.

So don’t think you’re ‘special’, that the ‘rules don’t apply’ to your church or that other people who successfully led change ‘had it easier’. They probably didn’t.

If you go in with an excuse mindset, you’ve set yourself up to fail.

So park your excuses if you want to lead change.

And For Sure, Leading Change Isn’t Just About Mastering “One Thing”

There isn’t just ‘one thing’ that will help you lead change. Leading change is complex.

In my book, Leading Change Without Losing It, I outline 5 strategies that can help you overcome the inevitable opposition you’ll face when you lead change (I also tell the story of how we changed in the book).

But it can be done. Ron Edmondson recently led a traditional, plateaued church from 1000 in attendance to over double that in less than two years. He outlines his approach here.

But there is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in almost 20 years of leading change. And by ‘helped me’ I don’t just mean helping me lead others, I mean it’s also helped me stay motivated myself.

What is it?

Focus On The Why

You likely know this already, but it’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Or to think you’ve said it once and don’t need to say it again.

Here’s the one thing that’s helped me more than anything else I’ve done in leading change in what started out as a very traditional setting, and can help you lead change in the most stubborn, resistant and traditional settings:

Focus on the why. Not on the what and the how.

There are really only three issues that come up around any leadership table.

What are going to do?

How are we going to do it?

Why are we doing it?

Most leaders intuitively focus on the what and the how, neglecting the why.

That’s the mistake. And here’s why that’s a bad idea.

What and how are inherently divisive.

Why unites people

People usually disagree on what. You like a certain style of music. Someone else likes another. You want to paint a room grey, someone else likes taupe. You prefer earlier services, someone else thinks evening is best. You think you should spend the money. Others disagree.

How is often just as divisive. As soon as the discuss starts, people start asking: So how are we going to pay for this? How are we going to get people on board? How are we sure this will work? How long will this take? 

That’s why effective leaders consistently refocus the conversation on why. Why are we proposing these changes?

Because this isn’t about us.

Because we imagine a church that our kids and grandkids want to come to.

Because we want to be a church our friends love to attend.

Because we want to be a place where people who don’t feel welcome today feel welcome tomorrow.

Because we love Christ and the world for which he died.

Because we have a passion for those who don’t yet know Christ.

Because our current methods aren’t optimally helping us accomplish our mission. 

It’s hard to disagree with statements like these, isn’t it?

Why appeals to the best in people.

Consequently, when you focus on why, you bring out the best in people.

After all, most people are part of your church because at some point, they decided to give their lives to Christ and be part of a cause that’s bigger than themselves. Your job is to remind them (and yourself) of this daily.

Leaders who relentlessly refocus on the why are always the most effective leaders.

If the entire group gets focused on the why, the what and the how have a way of working themselves out far more easily because why motivates.

When people agree on the why, the conversation starts to sound more like this:

Well I might not like it personally, but it is the most sensible approach. Let’s go for it.

We’ll find the money somewhere.

Let’s give it a try. I’ll put my objections aside.

I feel like there’s a future again!

Will you get some opposition, you bet? But, as I outline in my book, likely no more than 10% of people will be opposed and you can leverage a strategy for handling that.

And if a few people leave…let them go. They can always find another church they can go to. The people you’ll reach will likely far outweigh the people you lose.

What’s the single best way to navigate change in a traditional, old or very resistant setting? Focus on why far more than you focus on what and how. 

What are you learning about leading change in a traditional or resistant context?

Tell us by scrolling down and leaving a comment!

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

So you’d love to see more volunteers serve in your church or organization.

Who wouldn’t?

And yet when it come to volunteers, a surprising number of leaders struggle. Many leaders suffer from:

A chronic shortage

High turnover

Mediocre or poor morale

Ask most leaders why this is, and they can’t tell you.

And yet the reasons are not that difficult to figure out. Often you just need to shift perspectives.

questions volunteers askStart With This One

Here’s a simple place to start. If you’re always short on volunteers, ask yourself

Would you volunteer for you?

Answer honestly. The response can be very telling.

If the answer’s no (or you think the answer is yes, but almost everyone else would answer it for you differently), then the next step is to figure out why. Why aren’t people stepping up or sticking around?

That’s where the next 7 questions can help.

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks

Almost every volunteer at some point probably asks variations of these 7 questions, whether they ever say them out loud or not. If you’ve volunteered for someone else, you’ve probably asked them whether you realize it or not.

Develop great, healthy answers to these 7 questions, and volunteers are far more likely to stick around.

Better, yet, they’re likely to grow and flourish under your leadership.

1. Is this really about the mission?

Most people want to give themselves to a cause that’s bigger than themselves. In my view, no cause is greater or more worthy than the mission of the local church.

Yet many churches lose focus on the mission.

Volunteering ends up being about

Filling a slot

Meeting a need

Doing your duty

Or, in the worst case scenario, volunteering can become more about serving the ego of the leader than it does about serving Christ.

When you keep the true mission of the church or your organization central, people rally.    For example, in addition to leading a local church, I sit on the Board of Directors for an extremely well run local food bank. Their mission? A city in which no one is hungry. That’s inspiring.

When you lose focus on the mission, volunteers lose heart.

Every volunteer wants to give their time to something bigger than us or bigger than themselves. So give them that opportunity.

2. Are the relationships around here healthy?

No community should have better relationships than the local church.

After all, our faith is based on a saviour who reconciled the world to himself, forgiving our sin. What could we possibly hold against one another?

And yet often the local church has some of the most fractious, passive-aggressive relationships out there.

We have a saviour who came full of grace and truth, yet often church leaders will often swing to either extreme: all grace, so issues are never dealt with, or all truth, so people get hurt.

Even if you don’t lead a church (leaders from a variety of backgrounds read this blog), realize that many people love the mission of the organization they work for, they just can’t stand the personal politics and dysfunction.

One of the greatest gifts church leadership can give to a congregation is healthy relationships. So be healthy.

Not sure what that means?

Start by changing one thing. Talk to people you disagree with, not about them. That will change far more than you think.

Additionally, almost every organization has toxic people in it. Here’s a primer on how to spot and deal with toxic people.

3. Will serving help me grow spiritually?

It’s ironic that in many churches and organizations, people equate serving with burning out, not being renewed.

And yet Christian service should be a paradox of renewal: when we give our lives away, we find them. When we serve, we grow.

Part of growing is providing a healthy environment. Pay attention to the issues addressed by the other six questions and you’ll have an environment that favours growth.

But you also need to care for volunteers spiritually, or at least provide an environment in which spiritual growth flourishes.

Pray for them.

Pray with them.

Share your journey.

Encourage theirs.

Mentor your key leaders.

You can’t guarantee spiritual growth will happen, but you can provide the conditions in which it can easily happen.

4. Am I just a means to an end?

I wish I could get some of my early years of leadership back. As much as I would have denied it at the time, I think I naturally saw people as a means to an end.

The end was (and is) a great one: fulfilling the mission of Christ’s church.

But people matter. A lot.

Nobody likes feeling used, but that’s often how churches and other organizations treat people.

Care about them. Encourage them. Ask questions. Listen to their stories. Pray for them.

When you have a healthy, Christ-centered, energized team that knows they’re valued, the mission advances further and faster anyway.

 5. Will you help me develop the skills I need?

I have a friend who has visited a lot of churches and non-profits tell me recently that—as well intentioned as leaders are—the vast majority of organizations are, in his view, poorly run.

That’s a tragedy.

Why is the local Walmart better run than the local church?  Seriously. One is selling products that last a day, a month or a year. The other is brokering life change that lasts forever. The church should be the best in the world at recruiting, training and releasing people into ministry and their calling.

Many volunteers who come your way are highly capable people who just need a little training to know how to master the specific task you’re giving them.

A good heart just needs to be supplemented with a good skill set. Set aside an evening or a Saturday to properly train volunteers as they start serving, and then top up their training from time to time to help them get better at what they do.

6. Are you organized, or are you going to waste my time?

Disorganization is epidemic among church leaders and non-profits.

Too many volunteers show up to do their job only to discover that they also  have to do yours because once again, you’ve dropped some balls.

The more organized you are (on time, prepared, other holes plugged), the more your volunteers will be able to excel at what you’ve asked them to do.

As I first outlined in this post, disorganization is one of the six reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers. Here are 5 more.

7. So, am I signing up for life?

In many churches, serving is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

You’re a Christian for life, but that doesn’t mean you have to serve in one role for life. But many churches just assume people will.

What if you start putting a time line on every role? What if your conversation sounded more like:

Why don’t you try this for a season?

Can you serve with us for this semester/year?

People in this position typically serve for a 3 year term. You can try it out for a month before you commit to that term.

We definitely have some long term serving roles at Connexus (for example, we ask our high school small group leader to serve for four years), but we’re clear on the term from the outset.

Most other roles can easily be shortened to a few months to a year.

If you start providing end dates for roles, you’ll notice something surprising. Many people stay after their term has ended. They sign up for more.

Surprisingly, when you give volunteers an out, many lean in.

Want More?

In churches and non-profit world, leading and managing volunteers is one of the most important tasks you’ll have.

If you’re looking for more tangible resources, my friends at Volunteer Rocket will help take you in depth. It’s a year’s worth of resources to help you gain, train and retain volunteers that can help you completely change your volunteer culture. And they have a free seven day trial on now.

And you work in pre-school or children’s ministry, Live to Serve, with Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller, is a new practical, hands on training day for you as a leader that’s coming to four cities in 2015.

Hope this helps!

So what would you add to this list?

What questions do you ask when you volunteer somewhere? What other unarticulated questions do you think volunteers are asking?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

3 Keys To Pushing Past Your Personal Leadership Ceiling

Hit any leadership ceilings lately?

You know that moment when you realize you need to grow but you just don’t know how?

Welcome to the club.

We all feel that as leaders.

After 19 years of leading a church, I feel like I hit them quite regularly.

I was talking to a friend the other day who said like he felt he had stopped making progress as a leader. I was shocked, because I saw the progress he was making very clearly. He just couldn’t see it.

He’s been in his current position for a couple of years now and with the same church for 6 years. It’s often in that window that you start to feel like you are hitting a ceiling you can’t break through.

It got us into a great conversation about how you grow as a leader when you’ve been doing something for a while.

Here are three things I’ve learned about my personal leadership ceilings and how to break through them.

 leadership ceiling

1. Don’t run away.

When you keep hitting a ceiling, it’s easy to think you need to leave to grow. After all, it feels like you’ve exhausted your potential where you are.

Sometimes that’s true. And that may be your story.

But often, in my view, it isn’t.

It’s very easy to think “If I just had a new job/organization/position/start I would really grow” when, actually, the opposite is often true. That same kind of thinking leads people to jump out of their marriages or to move to new neighbourhoods looking for a fresh start, only to discover that their issues have followed them. I wrote about that in this post, outlining 5 things that long term leaders master than quitters don’t.

Here’s what I know: when you run away from your problems, you run away from growth.

In fact, when you leave to start a new job in a new place you often slow your growth.

I realize that’s counter-intuitive, but here’s why.

When you start over again you often get to reach back into your skill set bag and trot out all the skills you previously developed.

Applying old skills in a new setting often feels like growth. But for the most part, it’s not.

A deeper kind of growth happens when you stay in the same context and are forced to develop a new kind of skill set.

Which brings us to point #2.


2. Ask these questions to reveal your blindspots.

So if you’re hitting a ceiling, how do you grow?

Often that question seems mysterious, but it doesn’t need to be.

Simply identify your blindspots.

Usually when you hit a ceiling, it’s because you’ve addressed everything you can see that needs to be addressed.

The only thing left to address is what you can’t see—the leadership issues to which you’re blind. If you’re trying to think of what you might be blind to (and that’s the very issue with blindspots, isn’t it?), this Forbes article outlines blindspots that affect many leaders in business (and in church to some extent).

But the best way to identify blindspots on an ongoing basis is to ask questions. More specifically, to ask the questions every leader is afraid to ask.

Here are three questions I’ve learned to ask my team regularly, as painful as the answers can be sometimes:

1. Am I doing anything to make your job more difficult?

2. Am I doing anything that robs you of your passion for the mission?

3. What’s it like to be on the other side of me? (I got this question from Jeff Henderson. He does a 40 minute talk about it that is completely worth your time.)

You need to ensure your team feels safe answering these.

Don’t defend yourself. Don’t come armed with reasons and excuses. Just listen. Thank them. And maybe even get them to help you figure out how you can make it better.

You let them know it’s safe when you thank them for their answers, even when the answers are incredibly painful to hear.

When you ask these questions and are truly open to the answers, your blindspots get revealed.

And when you start asking questions as difficult as these, you grow.


3. Measure accurately.

Most of us driven types want to see progress instantly.

Which is why leadership ceilings are so frustrating. We hit our heads and can’t understand why the ceiling didn’t crumble.

In reality, when you’ve been in a role for a while, growth tends to happen this way.

You hit your head on the ceiling, and you think nothing moved.

You hit it a few times and ask questions like the ones above, and the ceiling moves a few inches.

Check in a few months later, and the ceiling has moved a foot or two. You’ve grown.

Keep stretching yourself, and a few years down the road you’ve moved up two storeys. You’ve grown significantly.

The key is to measure accurately over time.

If you keep working on your blindspots, when you look back a month, you’ll see little change. But look back a year, and you’ll realize you’ve changed a bit. Look back five years, and you might actually have grown significantly. You just didn’t notice until you thought about it.

So learn to measure accurately. Be patient with yourself.

Over time, if you keep working on your blindspots, you’ll grow far more than if you kept jumping around from place to place looking for the quick fix.


What Do You Think?

That’s what I’m learning about overcoming my personal leadership ceilings.

What are you learning?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

How to Lead Change When You’re NOT The Senior Leader

If you were in charge, everything would be different, wouldn’t it?

But you’re not. At least not yet.

So how do you effect change when you’re NOT the senior leader? How do you lead change when you’re a staff member or simply a volunteer?

Because I’ve written on change, I get that question all the time. That shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Far more people are NOT the senior leader than are the senior leader.

It’s easy to think you’re powerless, or to try to work around a leader you disagree with. But neither is a great strategy.

So what do you do if you want to bring about change but you’re not the key decision maker?

Not the leader

If you do a little homework and learn to think differently, you can be exceptionally effective at leading change well, even when you’re not the senior leader. Even if you’re ‘just’ a staff member or ‘just’ a volunteer.


Here are five ways you can ‘lead up’ to your senior leader when you want to broker change:

1. Think like a senior leader.

So you’re not a senior leader, but try to imagine that you were. Imagine the pressures and issues facing your senior leader and approach the conversation accordingly.

Think through how it impacts the entire organization.

Understand that your senior leader may have budget restraints and many other interests to balance, like a board of directors or elder board. Show him or her that you understand that and you’re willing to be flexible on some points.

Showing your senior leader you understand the bigger picture is huge.

I’m a senior leader and I’ll disclose a bias here.

When someone on my team comes to me with any idea and I realize they have thought it through cross-organizationally (that is, they’ve thought through how it impacts the entire organization), I am far more open to it than otherwise.

Why? Because

They’re thinking about more than just themselves.

They did their homework.

They helped me do my homework.

They showed me they’re leading at the next level.

I always try to be open to new ideas, but here’s the truth. Often before the person is done their presentation or we’re done the discussion, I’ve already thought through 15 implications of their idea.

If they show me theyve thought through the 15 implications before they got to my office, I’m completely impressed and very open.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just saying it’s a true thing.

And I think it’s true of most senior leaders.

When you think like a senior leader, you’re more likely to persuade a senior leader.

2. Express desires, not demands.

No one likes a demanding person.

In fact, when someone demands something there’s something inside me that wants to not give them what they asked for.

I don’t always follow that impulse, but expressing demands damages relationships. Instead, talk about what you desire.

Show respect and tell him how you feel – don’t tell him how you think he should feel. And above all, don’t be demanding.

3. Explain the why behind the what.

As Simon Sinek has so rightly pointed out, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Your best argument is not the what (we need to completely transform our church) or  the how (here’s how you should do it).

It’s the why (I think I’ve discovered a more effective way to reach families in our community and help parents win at home…can I talk to you about that?)

The more you explain the why, the more people will be open to the what and the how.

Lead with why. Season your conversation with why. And close with why.

4. Stay publicly loyal.

Andy Stanley has said it this way: public loyalty buys you private leverage.

It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, not only does that compromise your personal integrity, he’s not dumb.

He’ll probably hear about it and he will lose respect for you.

In my mind as a senior leader, the team members who conduct themselves like a cohesive team always have the greatest private influence.

Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.

5. Be a part of the solution. 

If you’re discontent (which you should be, as I wrote about here), it’s not that difficult to drift into the category of critic. Unless – that is – you decide to be part of the solution.

Offer help. Don’t end-run your leader, run with your leader on the project.

Be the most helpful you can be.

Offer to do the leg work.

Bring your best ideas to the table every day.

Offer to help in any way you can.

If you won’t be part of the solution, you’ll eventually become part of the problem.

So be part of the solution.

Those are five ideas on how to lead change when you’re not the senior leader.

Do they always work? No…human dynamics are more complicated than that.

But they often work, and if they don’t, you will know you gave it everything you had and then you can weigh your options. (Click here for 5 signs it’s time to move on.)

If you want more on change, I wrote about effectively leading change in my best-selling book Leading Change Without Losing It.

Non-senior leaders, what would you add?

Senior leaders, what other advice would you give?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Things You Can Do When Your Current Team Isn’t the Right Team

So…have you got the right team?

I hear from leaders all the time who say things like

I feel like we just don’t have the right leaders in place.

I’ve got a vision, but I just can’t get it past my team.

If only we had better people, we’d see a turnaround.

Sometimes leaders will say “Yeah…sure, I’ve got a good team”.

But deep down they’re far from sure. They know it needs to change, but how?

Whether you’re dealing with a staff or volunteer situation, there are almost always people who you know shouldn’t be on the team, so what do you do?


They’re Not All Bad People…Just Not the Right People

It’s hard to figure out who the right people are when you’re in leadership.

In my early days in leadership, I saw things as more black and white. And I made the mistake of personalizing misalignment or disagreement.

You were in or you were out.

You were with us or you were against us.

You were right or you were wrong.

Those views didn’t always leak out publicly, but sometimes they did. And while my views were more nuanced than that, there was more black and white in how I saw opponents than was healthy.

I’ve come to see people very differently over my tenure as a leader.

Just because you disagree with me or our vision doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just might mean you’re not right for our team in this season.

The only class of people I think every leader needs to be extremely cautious of are what I call toxic people.

You need to stay away from them and keep them off your team, whatever the cost. The stakes are just too high.

But truly toxic people might represent 1% of the population. (By the way, here are 6 early warning signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.)

Most people aren’t toxic.  But that doesn’t mean they are right for your team.


Why Some People Just Don’t Work Out

It’s easy to demonize people you don’t want to work with You’re not always right…and they’re not always wrong. 

Sometimes you have the wrong people with the right gifting. That’s often a chemistry or character issue.

Sometimes you have the right people with the wrong gifting. That’s often a competency issue.

Sometimes you have great people with a different vision and different calling. That’s simply a calling issue.

They could be great somewhere else. They just might not be great for your team or organization.

In fact, they would be better off and you would be better off if they moved off.

So how do you do that?

That’s the critical question.


5 Things You Can Do When Your Current Team Isn’t the Right Team

The following principles really work best if you’re going to be in an organization for 5 years or more. I think long term tenure is the best option by far for impact in ministry…here’s why.

Because I’m a church leader, I’ve crafted these for use in a volunteer organization. If you were merely dealing with paid staff, you could effect change faster.

That said, you can get a new team in place within 2 years and have your culture changed radically within 5 years, even in a slow moving church culture. At least that’s been my experience 19 years into leadership.

1. Get permission to find some fresh leaders

Chances are the team you have when you started is a team you inherited.

Even if you’re working in a church plant or start up, cracks in your launch team become visible within a year. You likely want to make changes.

It’s bad leadership to do end runs around people.

When I started 19 years ago leading three small churches that were (honestly) dying, we started with an honest conversation.

We talked honestly about the need for a new day, and they bought into the idea of creating a new team to run alongside them filled with the best leadership I could find in the church. The purpose of the team? To create a plan for a better future for our church that they, the elders, could approve or revise.

I realize a lot of you might think “that will never work in my context.” I get that.

But doing an end run around your current leadership behind the scenes creates a culture of mistrust you will never escape.

And if they say no after you have an honest, humble, prayerful set of conversations…well, you then know where you stand.

Maybe you’re the member of the team that doesn’t fit. And it’s time to move on.

But you’ll be surprised how often they see the issues you see, and are relieved you’re leading them to a new day.

2. Find the kind of leaders you can build the future of the church on

Sometimes you need to work outside the existing leadership to build a better future.

Do it honestly and openly.

I built a vision team when I first started in those three churches. I found the most future-thinking kind of people I could find and called them together with our most progressive existing leadership to carve out a future.

My simple criteria: are these the kind of people we can build the future of the church on?

If you start asking that question, you’ll be amazed at how clarifying it is about who you need to recruit into leadership.

3. Affirm people. Attack problems.

Your attitude is as important as the action you take when leading change.

It’s easy to attack people. That’s always a mistake.

Affirm people, attack problems.

If you do this, you will win over many friends, leave people with their dignity AND you will learn something in the process. You’re not always right.

Best yet, when you attack problems, you can often find that some people who were off-mission become on-mission because they are galvinized around a clear problem and call to action.

You’ll be surprised at how many great things happen when you attack problems, not people. I explain this concept in great detail in my book about how to lead change in the face of opposition.

4. Honour the past without living in it.

You will feel a temptation to dismiss everything that happened before you became the leader as ‘bad’ or inferior.


Stay in leadership long enough, and you’ll realize you’ve done some things that are actually bad or inferior too.

The people you inherited as a leader were often doing their best.

The team you have now probably cares deeply about what they’re doing.

Honour that. Affirm that.

Even if they are not the kind of people you can build the future of the church on. Let them know how much you appreciate their hard work, commitment and dedication. Here’s the truth, you would not be standing on anything right now as a leader if they had given up long ago. At least you have a foundation on which to build.

So honour them.

Honour the past without living in it.

Leverage what has been to help usher in what will be.

We ushered in massive change in the first 5 years of my leadership in a local church. We changed pretty much everything.

Some people left. But many stayed. At a conference I did one year, we brought up everyone who had been at the church when I started and celebrated them as ‘The Originals” —people who paved the way for a better future and were committed to bringing it about.  They got a standing ovation from the crowd gathered that day.

Even though most of them were no longer in the leadership role they used to be in, they felt honoured because they were honoured.

5. Find new seats for people.

Just because someone shouldn’t be on staff anymore, or isn’t an elder anymore, people of character will stay on and serve in different roles more suited to their gifting if you give them the chance.

Sure…some will leave.

A friend of mine once told me “What people become involved in becomes the mission.” And this is true. That’s why so many people leave a church when they no longer serve in it (I wrote about 9 reasons why this happens in this post).

Your job as a leader is to help them find a new seat on the bus that fits them better than their current role.

The best way to do that is to honour them and keep talking about the urgency of a mission and vision.

And if the person or group you’re working with isn’t toxic, often they are excited to still support the mission and vision in a new role.

If it turns out their service was all about them and not about the mission and vision, you’ll learn that soon enough: they won’t take another seat. But again, you’ll be surprised how many will.

Do these 5 steps guarantee everyone will stay? Not a chance.

But many will.

And they can help you build a new team when your current team isn’t the right team.

And practicing them over the years has led me to the place where I am thrilled with the team of staff and volunteer leaders we have.

What are you learning about getting the right people in place?

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