From Spiritual Growth

Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. The adventurous have perhaps added Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out, even podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do.

I’ve been to very large, high budget churches who have a digital presence everywhere and—for whatever reason—still welcome people like it was back in the day when the cassette ministry was booming.

I even caught myself doing this earlier this year.

The good news, the fix is quick simple and free for all of us.

Is My Glaring Omission Yours Too?

So what do you say when you welcome people to your church?

For years, our hosts (including me) have said something like:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there.

Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together. (Then we share one or two announcements we want everyone to know.)

See what I missed there?

Did you catch it?

I said ZERO (as in nothing at all) about our online presence.

Nothing about our social media. Nothing about our app. Zippo about our podcast. Nothing.

Yet 80% of the people (or more) are sitting there with their phones in their pocket.

During the week, we try to behave like it’s 2014. But Sunday morning, I was behaving like it was 1999.

This is the Opportunity You’re Missing

If it was actually 1999, people would have to drive to your church or to someone’s home to connect with someone else from the church.

Or they would have to buy (or pick up) a cassette or CD to listen to a message or series.

For the most part, in ministry you would show up in peoples’ lives occasionally at best.

Now, you can show up in a person’s life every time someone checks their phone courtesy of social media, email, your app, your podcast and more.

I realize that’s a double edged sword. There are definitely people you don’t want showing up in your life every day.

But I’m guessing there are some people you’d really appreciate hearing from regularly.

What if your church became one of them?

What if people were genuinely thankful to hear from you during the week?

See…you and I have moved from a world in which we had the ability to encourage people once or twice a week, to a world in which we can connect daily.

This isn’t just a promotional thing (don’t miss our big cheesy dinner Tuesday night!), it’s a discipleship thing.

Seriously, you can gain permission to speak into people’s spiritual journey regularly.

Publish helpful, useful content, and people will sign up to follow you. Don’t, and of course, they’ll unfollow you. The online world gives you instant feedback on whether you’re helping people or not. Just check your stats.

The Fix is So Simple

So don’t miss this simple fix.

If you’re publishing helpful, online content (and I realize we’re all growing in this and trying to figure out what that means), then just make sure you mention it Sunday morning.

Behave on Sunday morning like you can help someone during the week.

And the easiest way to help them, encourage them, inspire them and inform people during the week is via social media and your online presence.

So talk about that.

This is what we say now when we welcome people at Connexus:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there. Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together.

We’d love to stay connected with you this week. The easiest way to do that is by following us on social media. You’re welcome to take out your phones right now and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (we show the links on the screen as we say them). We also love hearing from you and this is great way to keep up the conversation.

Then, during the week…help people. Encourage, inspire and occasionally inform.

If you hand out a program or bulletin, make sure you include how to connect with you online.

And if you have a website, have a prominent place to follow your church on social media. People will connect with you 100x more on your social media platforms today than they ever will on your website.

Bottom line?

If you’ve got any online presence, talk about it on Sunday morning. Strangely, so many churches still don’t.

The change is free, easy, instant and everyone can do it. Just change what you say when you welcome people.

We’re All Learning

Want more? I’m not sure anyone has cracked the code on how to optimally use social media. But here are some resources that have helped me and some churches I like to follow online:

Cross Point Church

North Point Church 

Lifechurch.tv

New Spring Church

Elevation Church

Casey Graham and I also talked about how to connect with people using email marketing in Episode 3 of my leadership podcast.  (Subscribe for free here to hear feature length interviews with Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Casey Graham, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and more.)

Finally, nobody writes better stuff on church announcements than Rich Birch. Make sure you mine his site at Unseminary.com for posts like this that will change your announcements from a few minutes people tolerate to a few minutes people will anticipate.

So…what are you learning about connecting with people online during the week?

How do you highlight your social media on weekends?

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Why A Real Leader Never Says “It’s Not My Fault”

Despite our faith, Christian leaders don’t always have the healthiest practices.

It’s so easy to get defensive in leadership.

After all, all the problems no one else can solve land on your desk. What makes it really difficult is that sometimes

1. You weren’t involved in the project in the first place.

2. You wanted to take a different direction and got outvoted.

3. You didn’t even know about it until things blew up.

When any of these things happen, everything inside you wants to say “it’s not my fault.” Who doesn’t want to escape blame?

Sometimes saying it’s not my fault is more subtle than those four words. For example, you might be tempted to:

1. Say you didn’t know about it.

2. Quietly tell people you were against it.

3. Say “I saw that coming. Wish I had more input.”

Bottom line is, you’re communicating that you’re not responsible.

I’m not sure the urge to say “it’s not my fault” ever goes away, but as a leader, I’ve had to learn to dump the practice.

Here’s why.

blame in leadership

Do You See Yourself In This Picture?

Let’s dig deeper. Your desire to avoid blame expresses itself in a variety of ways:

1. Someone leaves your church. You say “Well, they never fit into the culture here anyway” or “I think we were his third church in the last five years.”  Translation:  It’s not my fault.

2. An event comes off poorly. You say “If we just had more help, it would have run smoothly.” Translation: It’s not my fault.

3. You’re scrambling to get a project done at the last minute. You say “Well, if I had the source material on time and if the printer hadn’t been down on ink I would have been done earlier.”  Translation: It’s not my fault.

4. Your church hasn’t grown in two years. You say “Very few churches are growing around here” or “If that big church hadn’t opened its new building, I’m sure we’d be growing.”  Translation: It’s not my fault.

Whether or not something is your fault is kind of beside the point: if you’re the leader, you’re actually responsible.

And while it’s not your fault every time, sometimes it is your fault. Be honest.

And even when it’s not directly your fault, you’re the leader so you’re responsible.

Don’t Let These Four Bad Things Happen

Here’s what’s at stake. When you fail to accept responsibility:

You never grow.

You create a culture of blame.

You diminish your team.

You model irresponsibility.

Even when it is a series of outside circumstances or a pattern beyond your control that influences the negative event, as a leader, you’re still responsible.

So how do you tackle those issues differently?  I mean there’s something inside you and something inside me that always wants to escape blame.

A Better Way

So what’s the better response then? Ignore the situation? Say it’s your fault when you really weren’t involved?

What do you do?

I think healthy leaders do three things. They

Assume responsibility

Empathize appropriately with the disappointment someone is expressing

Don’t blame events or people for the misfortune

So let’s re-imagine all four conversations:

1. Someone leaves your church.  You say, “I agree, it really is a shame that they left.”  Maybe you even offer to meet with them to learn. Then, even if they had ‘issues’, you walk away and try to figure out what your piece of the responsibility pie is in this situation and grow from it.

2. An event comes off poorly.  You say “Our team worked really hard. I’m proud of their efforts, but for sure, we have some learnings from this.  Thanks for that feedback.”  You get back to work…affirm what went right, and problem solve around how to do it differently next time.

3. You’re scrambling to get a project done at the last minute.  You say “I should have left more time for this.  Sorry to have let you down with a late delivery.”  You figure out how to manage your time better, allowing for unforseen delays.

4. Your church hasn’t grown in two years.  You say “I agree that I’d love our church to be growing again. I’m committed to helping us get there.”  Then you sit down with your best leaders and figure out what you need to do to better realize your mission and refocus your strategy.

Question for you:  which of the two cultures described above do you want to be a part of? The culture of blame or the culture of responsibility?

Exactly.  When you become a leader who accepts responsibility, your chances of being an organization that acts responsibly (and stops blaming) goes up significantly.

Accepting responsibility is a major step toward transformation.

What are you learning these days about accepting responsibility?

What are some of the effects of living in a culture that accepts responsibility versus one that shuns it?

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How To Know Whether You’re Trusting God…or Just Being Stupid

One of the most perplexing questions a Christian and, to be sure, a Christian leader will face when it comes to risk is this:

Am I trusting God, or am I simply being foolish?

The question isn’t as dumb as it seems.

There’s a fine line between faith and irresponsibility, and at times it’s almost impossible to see.

You know that big leadership risk you’re thinking about?

your new role

the massively daunting project

the big mission trip

that new campus

your start up

hiring a team

a new facility

the big move?

So…is it a step of faith, or is it just stupid?

Is it trust…or is it irresponsibility?

How would you know?

risk

Real Risk Lives on the Edge of Spectacular

Recently I had a call from a pastor friend who wanted to get his church out of a portable situation and into a new facility.

We had talked about the move several times, and on this particular day he was down the wire. His church had given at unbelievably sacrificial levels, but he was still at least 6 figures short of his goal. Yet they had a building deal in front of them that they could move on now before costs escalated beyond what they could afford.

He asked me what I thought. I asked more questions. The answers really didn’t help me get much clarity at all, despite my friend’s best intentions.

I asked him what other wise people he and I both knew were saying. He said everyone thought it was pushing the known limits.

I said I tended to agree.

We talked some more.

So what advice did I end up giving him?

I told him:

I think this will be spectacular. It will either be spectacularly wonderful or a spectacular failure. And I don’t know which.

That’s quite literally what I told him. (Bet you don’t want to call me for advice anymore….)

But that was the truth. I just didn’t know which. I told him I’d be watching with prayerful anticipation, which I did.

So what did my friend do?

He put out one last call for giving and people…responded.

They signed the deal. And recently I saw his amazing new facility that’s nearing completion.

I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. He was right. It looks like it was a spectacularly great decision for his congregation and all those they’ll reach in the coming years.

The Bible Sometimes Makes Things…Complicated

Ever really read the Bible?

So when you read it…what do you see? Faith or foolishness?

What was Abraham thinking when we set out with his entire family to go to a land he’d never been to, risking everything for a voice he thought he’d heard?

Who was Moses to think he could stand up to the most powerful king in the land, or to even attempt it after he had so much doubt about his calling?

The prophets were….not very typical suburban people. Ezekiel lay on his side for 390 days and all eating a specific diet cooked over excrement and played with a scale model of Jerusalem to show its pending destruction…wow!)

Imagine how Daniel felt being thrown into the lion’s den. Had he lived his life faithfully, or foolishly? He was about to find out.

Would you have advised your kids to do what Peter James and John did, leaving it all (including you, mom and dad!) to follow a man that had just burst onto the scene and some are starting to think is God?

How about Paul, who went from place to place, prison to prison, painfully misunderstood but absolutely committed to proclaiming this Jesus so many people rejected?

We say we want our kids to lead faithful lives, but do we even have a clue what that means?

None of our biblical heroes were exactly on the top college/stunning career track.

If you were advising any of these biblical figures, what would you have told them to do?

What is a Godly decision?

Is it always wise, prudent, restrained, responsible?
Or is it always risky, edgy, out-there, half-crazed?
Or neither?
Or both?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

Two Helpful Questions

For the record, I don’t believe there’s an easy way, five step, bullet proof way to resolve the tension between faith and foolishness.

Pivotal decision making should be navigated through prayer, through pouring over scripture (prayer and scripture should always be married) and through seeking advice of trusted, Christian mature people around you (click here for how to develop an inner circle like that). But sometimes that even lands in a place of uncertainty.

Here are two questions I’ve started asking myself to help when things aren’t clear:

1. Is ‘wisdom’ killing my trust in God?

2. Does my ‘trust’ in God disregard all wisdom?

Q 1:  Wisdom Killing My Trust?

I think the first question—is wisdom killing my trust in God—is more disturbing for me.

I’ve led for 20 years and learned a lot of lessons. I’m wiser than I was decades ago (hopefully that’s true for all of us who have led for a while).

And that can lead me to choose what I know, can see and can predict without honestly going for broke and trusting God wholeheartedly.

More over, the more successful you become—the more money you have, the more people you’ve reached, the more influence you have—the more conservative you tend to become. I’m not talking politics here, I’m simply saying you tend to not want to lose what you’ve got, so you naturally conserve more and risk less.

You know what’s underneath that? Fear.

Fear is clever. And fear can hide behind wisdom.

You can get to a certain season in leadership in which you no longer want to take risks in the name of being ‘wise’, ‘prudent’ or ‘ responsible.”

But the truth is you don’t want to rock the boat. If you examined your motives, you’d be honest and say you don’t want to lose what you’ve already gained. You simply don’t want to sacrifice what is for the sake of what could be.

You’d be forced to admit that having is more comforting than trusting.

And you’ve allowed ‘wisdom’ to become a substitute for trust.

And that’s bad.

That’s why young leaders are often better risk takers than seasoned leaders—they have less to lose so they risk more.

And that can lead some leaders to stop trusting God because ‘risk’ looks unwise.

When was the last time you had to trust God for the outcome of something? I mean really trust God?

If you can’t remember, it might be a sign you’ve let wisdom kill your trust in God.

Q 2: Does My Trust in God Disregard All Wisdom?

The opposite of course, can also be true. You have so much faith that you’re…well, reckless.

What people claim to be ‘trust’ can easily be:

their ego
their insecurity
a cruel disregard for other people
deep disobedience
irresponsibility

Just because you label it ‘faithful’ doesn’t mean it’s faithful.

If you are disregarding wisdom entirely and likely to hurt a bunch of people you’re likely not being faithful.

Trust still looks like Jesus…and it should have outcomes consistent with his character and with scripture.

If your decision makes you and the people you lead look nothing like Christ, it’s not from Christ.

The Final Call

So…you can go through all of these steps and still not be clear. You knew that, didn’t you?

So what happens if all of this (prayer, scripture, wise counsel and questions like the two questions above) doesn’t lead you to a conclusion?

Here’s what I do.

I just make a decision. So should you.

So many dreams have died because people were terrified to make the wrong decision. Don’t be.

Whatever decision you make, offer it up in faith. Make it faith. Dedicate the decision and the outcome to God, like Paul suggests in Romans 14:23.

A prayer like that can sound something like this:

God I”m doing this (or not doing this) because I trust you. If it’s wrong, I trust you will show me. If it’s right, I trust you will show me. I’m trusting you with the outcome.

Then go for it. With confidence and faith. Don’t hold back.

For as Augustine said:

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

So…what do you think? What are you learning?

What would you add to this discussion?

And maybe even tell me what big decision you’re weighing right now.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

How to Tell If You’re An Insecure Leader (5 Signs)

So…over the years, I’ve struggled with insecurity as a leader.

Maybe you have too.

Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity.

But there was a season where I didn’t really know I was insecure. And with most things leadership, knowledge is power. You can’t address a problem you’re unaware of.

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

insecure leaders

Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you’re an insecure leader:

1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others. 

We have lots to learn from other people, but insecure people aren’t driven so much by a desire to learn as they are to know whether they are better or worse than others. There is a world of difference between tracking with someone to grow and learn, and tracking other people or organizations to see how you stack up.  One is healthy, the other destructive.  As Andy Stanley says, there is no win in comparison.

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

Your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews and what others say about you.  I do monitor most of those things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.  God’s opinion of me doesn’t change with people’s opinion of me.  I need to learn from trends and learn from others, but I cannot let someone else determine my worth.  Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.

3. You can’t celebrate someone else’s success.

 This trait is a tell tale sign that you are insecure.  Why can’t you just give a compliment?  Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?  Life is actually not a zero sum game – at least not life in God’s Kingdom.  For you to win, someone else does not have to lose.  If you can’t compliment a competitor, why not?  If you can’t celebrate a colleague, is it because you are worried others might think they are better than you? You do not need to be the only one who is ‘great’ at something.

4. You make no room for people who are more gifted or competent than you.

This is where your personal traits inflicts direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).  The sign of a great leader is not that they are the most gifted or competent person in the organization.  The sign of a great leader is someone who can attract and keep people more gifted and competent than themselves.  The future will belong to people who can forge great alliances, make great partnerships and attract great people.

5. You need to be the final word on everything. 

Insecure people end up being controlling people.  You don’t need experts because you want to be the expert.  Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.  The truth is most of us are only great at one or two things, and even then, you became good at it with the help and advice of others.  When you value the counsel and input of others–especially on the things you’re best at–you embark on a path toward greater wisdom.

Those are some signs I’ve seen that mark insecurity in myself and in others.

In this post, I share some strategies that can really help getting past the struggle so many of us face.

How about you?  What have you noticed?

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3 Battles Every Leader Loses…Every Time

Most days you try to win battles as a leader, don’t you?

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

But there are several battles leaders lose…every time. Even if you desperately try to convince yourself you’re winning.

Fighting any of those?

Your might be. How would you know?

leadership battle

How Did This Happen Again?

If you end up fighting these battles, you will fight them for two reasons:

You’re young and haven’t seen that these are self-defeating characteristics yet. That’s not slamming young leaders…I’m just saying that they really do live in most of us until we weed them out.

You’re simply not self-aware. (If you want to grow in self-awareness, it’s possible. I wrote more about how to become a self-aware leader here.)

Each of these battles arise because of a leader’s insecurity.

Most of us are insecure at some level. And an insecure leader is always a less effective leader.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a secure leader, check out these 5 signs you’re an insecure leader here.

Conversely, the more secure you are as a leader, the more likely you are to win these battles by changing your approach to leadership.

3 Battles Every Leader Loses…Every Time

Here are 3 self-defeating battles every leader loses…every time:

1. Creating An Organization That Exists For Your Benefit. 

It’s very natural to be selfish, and if you lead the way many do, you can fall into the trap of believing that the organization exists for the benefit of the leader.

People work for you. You don’t work for them.

Perks flow up, not down.

You feel like the rules should apply to others, but not you.

You feel entitled to inflict your emotions on the people around you, even if they’re negative or destructive.

Sometimes pastors and church leaders behave like that. Rather than existing to serve, they exist to be served.

The leader who places himself above his team eventually has no team, or at least a team not worth joining—just a bunch of minions doing his or her bidding.

And while you can sometimes get away with that style of leadership—even in the church—it certainly doesn’t reflect the heart of Christ.  You might not even really be the church when you lead like that. I would suggest you are not.

If you’re really selfish, there’s a surprise coming at the end:

A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone. 

All the joy you expected to find from having everything revolve around you doesn’t really satisfy nearly as much as you’d hoped.

Try to create an organization that exists for your benefit, and you lose. Worse though, is that everybody else does too.

2. Seeking Affirmation From the People You Lead

Most of us have some people pleasing tendencies in us. I know I have to fight mine. (If it helps, I outlined 5 ways people-pleasing undermines your leadership here.)

I don’t know who I originally heard this principle from, but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s a simple but profound truth:

Never seek affirmation from the people you lead. 

If you seek affirmation from the people you lead, it messes with the very dynamic that will make you effective. And they can smell your insecurity a mile away.

And yet insecure leaders seek affirmation from the people they lead all the time:

Did they like my last series/meeting/memo?

Do they appreciate me?

How come I don’t get more gratitude more often?

Here’s the gut-honest truth: the people you lead directly will always applaud you a little less than those who know you less well.

Let me say it again. The people you lead will always applaud you a little less than those who know you less well.

And that’s okay.

Why?

Two reasons:

First, they see you in a way people who know you from a distance don’t. They see you for who you really are: flaws and all.

Second, your job is to serve and lead them, not to have them nurse your fragile self-esteem.

Because I write a speak publicly, there are days where my inbox will fill up with thank you’s from people I’ve never met who read my blog or listen to my podcast or were at a talk I gave, and at the same time fill up with emails and texts from the staff and team I lead at home outlining the problems I need to help solve.

It can be tempting to think: why don’t the people I lead send me more thank you notes, (even though they do from time time)?

Easy. Because my job isn’t to get people to like or appreciate me.

My job is to lead them. To serve them. To love them. To help them succeed.

So I smile if I get notes from people…I’m actually very thankful. But then I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

So what should you do for affirmation?

The best affirmation to seek is of course, the affirmation of your heavenly father. Your spouse can’t be your perpetual confidence booster. Nor can your team.

Deal with your junk. Go see a counselor. Become more secure. Remember, you are called to serve, not to be served.

Don’t look to your team for gratitude, fish for compliments or wait for your inbox to fill up with sunshine.

Be honest about your mistakes, seek to improve. Be open to feedback. Listen. Change. Grow.

Then you’ll lead well.

3.  Keeping Smarter, Better People Away from You

You need a great deal of security to invite leaders who are better than you into your church or organization.

And the truth is, many leaders won’t.

They won’t allow a better speaker to fill in when they’re not speaking.

They won’t hire a better communicator as an associate, or allow a better communicator to speak to their team via video.

They won’t hire someone who’s more gifted or talented than they are.

The expect volunteers to do tasks, but not think, let alone contribute.

They won’t have elders or board members around a table who will challenge them.

If you lead like this, first of all, you really aren’t a leader.

And secondly, you won’t be surrounded by leaders. They’ll all leave.

The best way I know how to get over this fear that most of us naturally have is to do what Andy Stanley has suggested:

Celebrate what God has given others; leverage what God has given you.

You may not be as smart/fluent/funny/insightful as some other leaders. But that’s okay. You bring a unique contribution in some way. Celebrate what they bring. Leverage what you bring.

Everyone will be far better off.

What Do You Think?

These are three battles every leader loses every time.

Which ones are you fighting?

What battles have you seen leaders lose?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

What Self-Aware Leaders Know…That Others Don’t

So…how self-aware are you?

It’s a skill I’ve been trying to build every year for many years as a leader, husband and friend.

Here’s why.

I realized awhile ago that self-awareness is a characteristic I’m drawn to in people I work with and do life with.

In fact I try to get as many self-aware people on board any team I’m building as possible and personally prefer the company of self-aware people to those who aren’t.

Before that sounds too discriminatory, the good news is self-awareness is a skill and it can be learned.

If you want to grow your self-awareness, you can. If you want to develop your team’s self-awareness, you can.

You just need to know what to look for.

self-awareness

Self-Awareness is A Key To Emotional Intelligence

About 20 years ago, Daniel Goleman rocked the leadership world with a new theory: that emotional intelligence was as or more important to success than intellectual intelligence.

His theory on emotional intelligence is now commonly now called EQ (although Goleman prefers the term EI, not EQ), and many organizations are hiring for EQ as much as they are for IQ or other more traditional hard skill sets.

Goleman identified 5 main components for emotional intelligence, chief of which is self-awareness (you can read about the other four here).

If you want to dramatically improve the climate in your church or organization, hire and recruit self-aware, emotionally intelligent people.

For example, if you had a choice to invite a self-aware leader who had a B+ gift set on to your team, and a leader with an A gift set on to your team who wasn’t self-aware, whom would you choose?

For me, it’s not much of a contest. I’ll take the self-aware leader.

They tend to make a bigger impact in their leadership and they are MUCH easier to work with.

Four Simple But Surprising Things Self-Aware Leaders Know

So what do self-aware people know that other leaders don’t?

In my experience, there are four things. The four things are simple when you think about it, but it’s surprising how many people and leaders lead day to day strangely unaware of them:

1. Their impact on others

Of all the characteristics of self-aware people, this is the most endearing.

Self-aware people understand their own emotions and actions AND the impact of their emotions and actions on others.

That sounds simple, but the implications are staggering.

Think about it. How many times have you had a bad day only to not know why you’re having a bad day?

And then how many times has your mysteriously bad day had a negative impact on your spouse, your kids and your co-workers?

Far too often, right?

Me too. That’s what self-awareness and emotional intelligence starts to address in leaders. It stops that.

Self-aware leaders refuse to let a bad day on the inside spill out to others on the outside. Self-aware people just don’t have many of those days.

Sure…they might not feel great. But they realize their mood has an impact on others, and they regulate it.

Who doesn’t want to be around people like that?

If you struggle with your mood (and how doesn’t?), here are a few ways to handle it:

Be the first to recognize it.

Pray about it.

Regulate it.

Be more interested in other people that day than you are in yourself. (This really helps.)

If you want to become more emotionally intelligent, be aware of the impact of your emotions on others.

2. Their weaknesses

Nobody likes to admit they have weaknesses, but we all do.

The longer I lead, the more I realize how small my sweet spot really is (for me it’s content creation, communication, vision casting and team recruitment…it’s all downhill from those four).

Self-aware people understand their weaknesses and limit their activities in areas for which they are not gifted.

This does two things:

It creates space for others to shine.

It allows them to spend most of their time working from their strengths.

It takes real humility for a leader to admit where they are not strong, but that characteristic is often endearing.

If you want to become more self-aware, understand your weaknesses and start acting accordingly. Your team will be so much better for it.

3. Their strengths

While it may take humility to acknowledge your weaknesses, it doesn’t take arrogance to acknowledge your strengths.

Someone who understands their strengths is not inherently egotistical; they’re just self-aware; arrogant people can just as easily work out of their weaknesses as their strengths.

So…don’t be afraid of understanding and leading from your strengths.

Self-aware people know what they’re best at, but don’t brag. They just do it.

4. Their limits

Everyone has limits. As much as some of us push back on them, they’re still there.

Self-aware people know what level their tank is at and behave accordingly.

When they need a break, they take one. When they’re tired, they acknowledge it and take responsibility for getting some rest. When they are running on all cylinders, they give whatever they’ve got to whatever they do.

Again, everyone benefits: co-workers, their team and even their family.

Ironically, a leader who knows where their limits are often operates at much closer to their limit than a leader who has no idea that they’re tired, over capacity or heading for a crash.

Want to know how to refuel?

Don’t miss my leadership podcast episode on burnout with Perry Noble (Perry burnt out and came back), and here’s an article on how to bring your best to the table every day.

Worried about your limits? Here’s a post that outlines 9 signs you’re burning out.

What Do You Think?

So what have you learned in working with self-aware people…or with leaders who are not self-aware?

What’s helped you grow as a leader?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

CNLP 004: Why Young Adults Are Walking Away from the Church & What You Can Do About It—An Interview with Kara Powell

You want kids to follow Christ.

You want your kids to follow Christ.

And yet between 40-50% of students who are active in the church in their senior year of high school will drift away from the church as young adults.

Why?

Kara Powell’s decade long research project sheds light—and hope—on a growing problem for parents and church leaders.

Welcome to Episode 4  of the podcast.

 

Guest Links: Kara Powell

Find and follow Dr. Kara Powell here:

Kara on Twitter

Kara on Facebook

The Fuller Youth Institute

Links Mentioned in This Episode

The links and resources mentioned in this episode include:

Sticky Faith by Kara Powell and Chap Clark

The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Kara Powell

Sticky Faith, Youth Worker Edition by Kara Powell, Brad M. Griffin and Cheryl E. Crawford

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Kara’s interview was full of great advice from the unique perspective of an academic, church leader and even as a mom.

While there’s so much you could do after listening to Kara, here are 3 things you can begin this week:

1. Provide opportunities for adults to connect with kids and teens. Create services teens love to attend. Get them involved. Get kids and teens serving together. Think about how to ensure kids have more than just other kids at work in their lives.

2. Talk to your kids about your own faith journey with your kids. Don’t just interview your kids about what they’re learning or how they’re growing spiritually, talk about how you’re learning and growing. It helps your kids see that you are in a relationship with God. You don’t need to be more spiritual than you already are. Just share the spirituality you already have. It helps kids develop their own faith.

3. Create a place for young people to express doubts. Don’t dismiss faith questions that kids have, even if they bother you. Don’t trivialize their questions. Get comfortable saying “I don’t know but…” It is not doubt that is toxic to young people’s faith. It’s unexpressed doubt. Create space where kids and teens can express their doubts. What’s critical is not that young people get all the answers (sometimes there are no answers), but that they stay engaged in the conversation.

Quotes to Share from Kara

 

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe.

Great news! Many of you had asked if the podcast could become a weekly podcast.

Your wish is granted. There’s a new episode every Tuesday.

That’s a great reason to subscribe now.

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Let’s Have Lunch In Washington DC or Indianapolis || Orange Tour 2014

I’m going to be in Washington D.C. this Thursday, October 9 and Friday October 10th, and in Indianapolis on Thursday October 16 and Friday October 17th for the 2014 Orange Tour.

I’ll be giving some keynotes and doing some breakouts on parenting, leadership and the church, and hosting a lunch for senior leaders each Friday of the Tour Stop. I’d love to hang out. Sign up below!

2014 Orange Tour

Have lunch with Carey: Register for the Washington DC Orange Tour Stop

Have lunch with Carey: Register for the Indianapolis Orange Tour Stop

 

Next Episode: Craig Jutila

Sometimes leadership makes you hard to live with. Ever felt that in your family?

Craig Jutila, a ministry leader at one of American’s largest churches, went home one day to find his wife had written “I hate my husband” in her journal.

Craig talks honestly and openly about how he had to learn how to lead and live differently, saving his marriage and his future as a leader.

Craig is a sought after speaker, author and he blogs here.

If you want to make your marriage or personal life better, don’t miss Episode 005. It goes live Tuesday, October 14th 2014.

Subscribe to the Podcast

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Got 60 Seconds? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners.

All reviews are SO appreciated. And THANK YOU. Over 100 reviews so far across all platforms and counting. Keep ‘em coming!

Thank you!

Got a question? Leave a comment.

5 Ways Your Emotions Help and Hurt Your Leadership

I had a blah day earlier this week.

Nothing terrible happened. There was no direct trigger.

I just didn’t feel great emotionally.

Chances are you have more than a few of those days yourself.

Sometimes they’re provoked (a nasty email, conflict on your team, a difficult meeting) and sometimes they’re not. For me, my blah day wasn’t provoked by anything I could see.

Sometimes bad days and seasons just happens. As John Mayer so poignantly puts it:

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in, where it left you last.
And you never know, when it starts
Until there’s fog inside the glass around your summer heart.

So many leaders I meet live in that space for more than a short season.

I believe misunderstood and unaddressed emotions sink more leadership potential than most of us realize.

And I also realize if I don’t jump on a bad day quickly, it can lead to a bad season.

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

So how do you do that?

emotions, leadership

There are at least five ways emotions can help you or hurt you in leadership.

Understanding how emotions can work for you or against you is key to becoming a healthy leader and cultivating a healthy culture on your team.

2 Ways Emotions Help You

Emotions can be great friends to any leader. Here are two ways your emotions can make you a better leader:

1. Emotion fuels passion.

Who wants to follow an emotionless leader?

There is no passion without emotion.

As John Wesley said

Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to see you burn.

That’s just true.

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

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

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

When your emotions are healthy, passion comes more naturally.

2. A fully alive heart generates powerful leadership.

When your heart is engaged and alive, you become a better leader.

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

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

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

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

3 Ways Emotions Hurt You

Often, the negative impact of emotions exacts an incredible toll on leaders and the people who follow them.

Here are 3 ways emotions can hurt your leadership:

1. Emotions can distort reality.

When you’re having a bad day, you convince yourself it’s over when it’s actually just beginning.

You see negative things more negatively than they should. You take things personally when you shouldn’t.

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

That’s why keeping a healthy heart is so important.

2. Negative emotions make everything about you.

Bad days or bad seasons are most often fuelled by pain. A stinging email triggers a deep hurt. A bad staff situation eats away at your joy. A season without momentum erodes your self-confidence.

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

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

People in pain

Don’t listen well to others.

Withdraw and sulk.

Blame others.

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

Want others to share their misery or sadness.

Seek attention.

All of that behaviour is selfish.

And selfish leaders are never effective leaders.

The best way to get rid of your selfishness? Get rid of your pain.

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

3. Emotions make you do things today that you’ll regret tomorrow.

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

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

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

You said terrible things.

You fired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You hired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You lost your temper in a meeting.

You broke up.

You ate too much.

You drove so fast you got a killer ticket.

You almost quit.

You did quit.

Years ago—largely because I learned not to trust my emotions—I made a decision: Don’t base tomorrow’s decision on today’s emotions.

Now when I’m having a bad day (or one that’s unrealistically good), I just don’t make decisions. I wait until I’m feeling more healthy. And, I’ve learned to always draw in other voices and decision makers into important decisions (here’s how to do that).

That’s what I remind myself when I’m having a not-so-good day, or whenever my emotions aren’t firing properly.

I’ve also realized that if that seasons continues for more than a few days, it’s probably a sign God has further work to do on my heart or even go back to a counsellor. I outlined other steps you can take to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry in this post.

What helps you get through a season when your emotions aren’t reliable?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

8 Idols Church Leaders Still Worship Today

Ever ask yourself as a church leader, do I worship something or someone other than God? 

It’s a great question to ask and great heart check.

I’ll stick my neck out and suggest that you do have idols you worship instead of God. At least I do.

Once you identify them and root them out, you’ll become a better leader.

idols, worship

You’re An Idol Factory

I get challenged about my personal and leadership idols every year when I read through the middle part of the book of Isaiah.

Chapter 44, for example, is all about the futility of worshipping idols, which in those days, was mostly wood or stone carvings.

So what’s an idol today? You don’t need wood or stone to create one.

An idol is anything that takes our focus and reliance off of God.

John Calvin was dead on when he said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”

Discard one, and you’ll simply create another.

 

8 Idols Church Leaders Still Worship Today

The list could be much longer than 8, because Calvin was right.

But here are 8 I struggle with or have seen other leaders struggle with.

These are in no particular order, because, well, any idol is bad enough to be #1:

1. Strategy

So I’m a strategy wonk. If you read this blog, you know that.

I think many churches fail for lack of a clear, coherent strategy. I wrote in detail about how mission, vision and strategy interrelate here.

But strategy is no substitute for trust.

As valuable as strategy is (and it is), no strategy is a substitute for trusting God.

Strategy makes an excellent servant and a terrible master.

2. Skill

By all means get better at what you do. Learn, listen, polish and perfect your skills.

Skill alone can get you far, but the church is a supernatural thing.

God changes hearts. You can’t. I can’t.

You know what’s better than a skill set? A surrendered skill set.

Having a B level set of skills that’s surrendered is better than an A level set of skills you’re trying to use without God.

3. Size

There is no merit in size.

Some leaders think only bigger is better. But idolizing big can be a thin mask for ego. (Your self-worth rises and falls with big.)

Some idolize the romanticism of small. Yet idolizing small can be a thin mask for insecurity. (You love small only because you will never be big.)

There is no magic to size. Focus on getting healthy, and size will take care of itself.

Or to switch metaphors, pull some weeds, till the soil, plant some seeds, and trust God to grow things at the pace and to the size he wants.

4. Stats

I love stats too much.

I watch attendance, baptisms, givings, group participation and volunteer rates like a hawk and then am disappointed if they don’t meet my exaggerated expectations.

I watch my blog and podcast stats too much, and—if I’m not careful—I’ll even allow them to dictate my emotions.

Before you gloat a little, ignoring stats can be another idol.

Being the slacker-who-doesn’t-care/I’m-too-hip-for-that leader can close you off to God as readily as being the leader who rises and falls with the numbers.

Stats tell you things. But they don’t measure your worth. Or God’s faithfulness.

Watch them. But don’t believe they’re a barometer on how awesome (or awful) you might be.

5. Alliances

I wish I had a better title for this, but ‘alliances’ simply refers to the group we do ministry with.

In some cases it’s your denomination, or a church planting group. Or my case, as a North Point Strategic Partner, it’s North Point Church.

Alliances are often strategic and helpful. They have been for me.

But they are not your saviour.

It’s tempting to think “If we join X group, our church would take off.”

No…it probably wouldn’t. Just so you know.

Alliances help. But they will not save. God does that.

6. More

Too many times, I’ve caught myself worshipping the idol of more.

If I had more staff….more money…more lights…more team…more square footage…more fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-your-current-obsession-is, then our church would be awesome.

Nope. God is awesome.

And again, there’s nothing wrong with having more. It’s just that more will not be your salvation.

Faithfulness is measured in what you do with what you have.

And if you steward what you have well, guess what? Often (not always, but often), you eventually end up with more.

Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. That’s better leadership.

7. Progress

I seem to be far more addicted to progress than God appears to be. Or at least what would define as progress (I’m quite sure God makes more progress on things than I do.)

I often think I would be the worst biblical character.

I would not be good with being in prison for years like Joseph or Paul. Or wandering the desert for 40 years like Moses while people complained. Or waiting to be king for what must have seemed like an eternity to David.

If every graph is not up and to the right, I get worried.

But God seems to use wilderness seasons in your life and in the life of your church to grow your character.

Besides, if your platform ever outgrows your character, you’re doomed anyway (I wrote about that here).

I know God has used seasons where I’m frustrated with progress to grow me.

I am still a reluctant convert to patience and trust. But I am thankful God is patient with me, even when I am not patient with God.

8. Balance

Some of you may be frustrated by now because this appears to be yet another leadership post written by yet another driven leader.

I know. I get that. Those are my demons.

But there is another idol lurking under the guise of work-life balance that’s worth identifying.

Often in the pursuit of a ‘balanced’ life, people can lose passion and commitment.

Don’t get me wrong: I am all for rest, balance, margin and a life that doesn’t drain the life out of you.

But balance can become code for barely working. Balance can become a synonym for not throwing your heart or weight into anything. (I wrote more about the trap of work-life balance here.)

If that’s a temptation, just understand that’s an idol too.

We have a God who asked us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

Most of the people I know who have accomplished significant things are not balanced people.

They are passionate people.

So be passionate in your work, in your family life, in your rest, and in all you do.

When you do, you will glorify God.

Those are 8 idols I see and often struggle with in leadership.

What do you see?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

7 Painful Truths About Burnout and Leadership

Ever wonder if you’re burning out as a leader?

Or maybe you think it’s just a season and you’ll push through it.

That worked for me…until it didn’t work any more.

8 years ago I experienced burnout for the first time. It was like I fell off a cliff and lost control of my heart, mind, energy and strength.

If you’ve ever been there, you know what it’s like. And if you haven’t, give thanks.

But most leaders get to some level of burnout at some point in their journey. Sometimes you lose passion and energy for the things you used to love. And sometimes, you just don’t want to get out of bed or realize you can no longer do what you used to love to do.

Regardless of how much we hate the fact that we can burn out, here are 7 painful truths about leadership and burnout.

How Burnout Got Perry Noble and How it Got Me.

Before I jump to the 7 truths about leadership and burnout, let’s open the dialogue a bit more.

Tomorrow on my Leadership Podcast, I release a new episode with Perry Noble about the burnout, depression and anxiety he has gone through as leader of one of American’s fastest growing and largest churches.

I hope Perry’s exceptionally candid, honest conversation helps you. It is rare to have a leader speak this honestly and this openly about his struggles, including the suicidal thoughts he experienced and his views on taking medication for depression.

You can make sure you don’t miss tomorrow’s episode by subscribing to the podcast here.

I tell my story of burnout in this post, and also share 9 signs you’re burning out.

Additionally, in this post, I talk about how I recovered and outline 12 keys to getting back.

The bottom line?

Burnout is tough…and it impacts more leaders than you think.

I really hope the dialogue around this podcast episode and the posts mentioned helps many leaders.

 

7 Painful Truths About Burnout and Leadership

Here are 7 painful but unavoidable truths about burnout and leadership.

Read more