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10 Quotes from The Eagles That Will Challenge Every Leader

Music is the fuel for so much in life and even in leadership.

When I was a kid, Eagles’ music was all over the radio, and thanks to the birth of the classic rock format in music, their music never really disappeared.

While I always liked them, they weren’t one of my go-to bands until I rediscovered them a few summers ago while writing a book. I downloaded one of their albums, then more, and was amazed not only by their musicianship but by their lyrics.

Over the last few years, I’ve not only enjoyed their music in a fresh way, but their lyrics inspired me to think through some of the deeper issues of life and leadership.

Last summer I watched the History of the Eagles documentary—a fascinating study in leadership and human dynamics as the band pretty honestly talks about the tension of being a band and the ups and downs that came with it. It’s actually an intriguing study for anyone who leads a team. And the music is pretty amazing.

Glenn Frey’s recent death not only saddened me, but made me reflect back on his writing. Don Henley and Glenn Frey had a way of capturing life in their lyrics that is both accurate and little too true.

If you’re like me, you’ll agree that leaders can learn from anywhere.

Their lyrics have actually helped me become a better leader; some of their insights really jump out at me.


I realize songs can be personal things, and no one really knows what the band meant anyway, right?

But each of these phrases have come to mean something to me as a leader and as a Christian (even though the band themselves would not call themselves Christian).

The lyrics below are Ecclesiastes-like observations on life that make me think…again and again.

With poignant honesty, the lyrics reflect the reality of life, ambition, relationships, success and disappointment.

Here are 10 Eagles lyrics that challenge me as a person and leader every time I hear them:

1. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy

That happens, doesn’t it?

It’s so easy for leaders to become self-absorbed.

Often, you end up having conversations with yourself that never end, that loop in your mind again and again. You think about what you’re leading day in and day out.

When that happens, you almost end up taking yourself too seriously.

Eventually, if you’re not careful, leadership can make you obsessed until you’re no longer fun to be around.

Leaders who take themselves too seriously ultimately get taken less seriously by others.

As Glenn Frey sang in Take It Easy: don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.

2. You only want the ones you can’t get

All driven, A-type people, listen up.

These lines from Desperado so encapsulate the struggle so many leaders feel, especially when some measure of success comes your way:

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get

Way too true, isn’t it?

What is it that drives us to want less of what we have and more of what we don’t?

There’s a discontent that drives every successful leader that can ultimately prove destructive.

Don’t let the discontent that drives you destroy you.

3. We never even know we have the key

Every leader faces lids. You do. I do.

If you’re the leader, you’re the lid.

Is there a solution?

Well, yes. As the Eagles put it:

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

This makes me ask the question: do I actually hold the key to an area in which I’m stuck and don’t realize it?

This can happen spiritually (God is willing to do more than you’ve realized), and it can happen in day-to-day leadership.

I outline three ways to break through leadership lids here.

You may be holding a key you don’t even realize. (The lyric is from Already Gone.)

4. You see it your way. I see it mine. But we both see it slipping away.


They happen happen all the time.

Best of My Love is a song about relationships, but I’ve seen this happen way too often in leadership.

Competing agendas create a stalemate, and neither side wants to engage to the point of breakthrough.

As a result, the mission suffers or even collapses.

You see it your way
And I see it mine
But we both see it slippin’ away

You’ve taken your position on an issue.

I’ve taken mine.

Neither of us is motivated to get past where we stand.

It’s a recipe for collapse.

Here’s what every leader needs to remember: never let your position jeopardize the mission.

5. If it all fell to pieces tomorrow…

A quote from Take It To the Limit:

If it all fell to pieces tomorrow
Would you still be mine?

Leadership and success are intoxicating. This lyric drives at the heart of what matters most.

It’s too easy to sacrifice relationship and even faith amidst the relentless drive of leadership.

If your job disappeared tomorrow, what would be left of:

Your family?

Your faith?

Your personal sense of worth?

Relationships matter more than anything (with God, with each other), but it’s so easy to forget that.

Ask yourself: if you weren’t in ministry tomorrow, what would be left of your faith, your family, yourself?

6. Half the distance takes you twice as long…after the thrill is gone

Too many leaders lose passion.

The cynicism mounts. The hurts pile up.

As a result, too many leaders fade out or burnout before they’re done.

This lyric from After the Thrill is Gone says it so well:

Time passes and you must move on,
Half the distance takes you twice as long
So you keep on singing for the sake of the song
After the thrill is gone

It’s hard to admit out loud that the thrill is gone.

Pride pushes you to think you can handle anything.

Fear keeps you from telling anyone you can’t.

I went through a season of burnout where the thrill was gone, but came back. Here are 7 truths about burnout and leadership.

7. They’ll never forget you ’til somebody new comes along

If there’s one thing social media and 24/7 connection has done it’s this: it’s driven our insecurities sky high.

You actually have a shot a being better known than at any time in history, thanks to our friend the internet.

And sometimes the minor celebrity that comes along with leadership today goes to a leader’s head.

New Kid in Town contains an amazing reminder of how temporary our place is:

They will never forget you ’til somebody new comes along

That is so so true.

Success is temporary.

Influence is always given by God for a higher purpose (to serve Him and help others, not to serve you).

A final observation about leadership and significance: Often the people who aren’t seeking to be remembered are the ones we remember.

8. You know I don’t understand why you don’t treat yourself better

By now, you can see dealing with success and fame was a huge issue for the Eagles. Sometimes they handled it well, sometimes it was a huge struggle.

The ability to handle all the fortune and fame was a major contributing factor to the band’s breaking up.

In The Long Run—their last studio album before their breakup—Don Henley sang:

You know I don’t understand why you don’t treat yourself better
do the crazy things that you do
‘Cause all the debutantes in Houston, baby,
couldn’t hold a candle to you
Did you do it for love?
Did you do it for money?
Did you do it for spite?
Did you think you had to, honey?
Who is gonna make it?
We’ll find out in the long run

So…leader…why don’t you treat yourself better?

I’m not talking about perks—I’m talking about you: your heart…your soul.

Often the motive that drives us in leadership needs sifting (even in the church).

Josh Gagnon, pastor of the rapidly growing Next Level Church, and I have an honest conversation about our own insecurities, the emptiness of success and how to take care of yourself as a leader in this episode of my Leadership Podcast. You can listen on iTunes or here.

Leaders who pay attention to the inner journey make it in the long run.

9. One day he crossed some line

Technically, New York Minute is a Don Henley song but the band has performed it together since reuniting in 1994.

Henley captures the story of a man who was gaining the world but lost his soul. As he put it:

But men get lost sometimes
As years unfurl
One day he crossed some line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn’t matter anymore

How do you avoid crossing a line?

Whether that’s a moral or ethical line, a relational line or a decisional line from which there’s no return?

You develop an inner circle of people who will tell you the truth.

I outlined how I put mine together in this post.

10. We are all just prisoners here, of our own device

When you start out in leadership, you think all the obstacles you’ll face are external:

Your title or position

Your boss or team

A limited budget

Finite resources

Constraints imposed by your organization or denominiation

But eventually you realize the biggest obstacles you face are not around you; they’re within you.

As the Eagles sang in Hotel California, we are all just prisoners here, of our own device.

For me, nothing challenges me more than my need to break through the personal barriers I find within myself: spiritual, emotional, relational and mental.

I believe this is an intensely spiritual pursuit.

Few analyzed their inner barriers as openly and transparently than Henri Nouwen did in The Genesee Diary—his inner journey from 7 months in a Trappist monastery in upstate New York. One of my all time favourite books.

Worth a read if you care about your soul.

What About You?

Got any Eagle’s lyrics that have helped you think through life and leadership differently?

Share them below in the comments!

copy a mega-church

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Copy a Mega-Church

If someone asked you who you’re following in today’s church landscape, you could probably answer with a list of 3-5 church leaders and perhaps 3-5 organizations to whom you’re paying close attention.

Even if you say you don’t have a list, chances are you do.

Your list might simply consist of critics of mega-church leaders or mega-churches.

We all follow someone. Especially in our hyper-connected era.

I am actually exceptionally grateful for what God is doing in many mega-churches and have deep respect for many mega-church leaders. Critics who say “all mega-churches are ______” in my view simply haven’t done their research.

I’m also a massive advocate of adopting best practices from anyone and anywhere (business, church, thought leaders etc).

After all, no one learns in isolation. Very few of us ever come up with an idea ‘no one has ever thought of before.’

In fact, the church at which I serve is a mega-church strategic partner. We have borrowed a TON of insight, strategy and branding directly from North Point and a few others.

And it works. Even in Canada.

So why this post then?

Because there’s a world of difference between adopting best practices and blindly copying.

Here’s the difference.

copy a mega-church

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Blindly Copy a Mega-Church

So why wouldn’t you blindly copy a mega-church?

Here are 5 reasons I’ve both experienced personally and observed widely among other church leaders, and 5 ways to better adopt the practices you see and admire.

For context, I have adopted a TON of learning from mega-churches and many sources over the years, both through transitioning a church (leading three tiny mainline churches into one, growing church that grew to 800) and through church planting (founding a church plant that now reaches 1100 each weekend).

But here are the traps you’ll fall into if you blindly copy your favourite leader or organization:

1. You’ll mix up models

Even back in the dial-up days, some of us used to watch other churches.

I cut my teeth in the late 90s as a budding church leader watching Saddleback and Willow Creek.

Then I went to a conference in 1999 and where I met James Emery White. He asked me about the changes I was making our our three little church and I explained that we were taking best practices from Willow and Saddleback and a bunch of other churches and combining them.

I’ll never forget what he told me.

He said “You don’t understand church models. Those are incompatible with each other. They aren’t the same thing. Carey, you need to become a student of models.”

Guess what? He was 100% right.

So I became a student of models.

While churches like North Point, LifeChurch, Elevation and NewSpring look the same on the outside, they approach ministry differently in many areas: groups, kids ministry, how they structure staff, how they reach out in the community and even the programs they offer.

When you study church models, pay attention to the differences.

Otherwise you might be adopting what you think made them effective, but didn’t. You might end up implementing a fake version of whatever you thought was the original, like buying a Pollo shirt rather than a Polo shirt.

You can’t effectively adopt what you don’t understand.

2. You’ll create an incompatible hybrid

When you mix models, as described above, you can easily end up with a hybrid model that just doesn’t work.

Each effective church you’re studying (be it well known or not) is the product of years of development, prayer, trial and error and fine-tuning until it finally all worked together powerfully.

If you strip a part off one model, borrow another from a second church, randomly select something you like from a third and THEN try to combine into something effective at your church, you’re headed for almost certain failure.

Why? Because there’s a good chance the components you borrowed don’t work well together.

Think of it this way: you can’t easily fix your Android phone with iPhone parts, or your iPhone with Android parts. They’re both phones, but they’re not the same.

If you put most Ford truck parts into a Tesla, it won’t run. They’re both vehicles, but they’re not the same.

In the same way, all the churches you study are churches, but they’re not the same.

You want a compatible system.

Naturally, once you see that certain parts will fit into your system beautifully because you understand the ‘part’ and you understand your system, you can adapt them.

3. You won’t own it

This one’s huge.

It’s easy than ever to attend conferences, read books, skim blogs, follow leaders and borrow a bucketful of ideas.

The challenge, though, is two-fold.

First, the ideas you’re borrowing from the leaders in question was a hard-fought idea. They developed it, revised it, changed it again and reworked it until it finally became an idea worth sharing. It was a part of them before they shared it within anyone. They owned it.

Second—and obviously—you haven’t owned that idea at the same level. And until you do, it might not prove nearly as effective for you as it has for them.

All of that leads us to this: leaders who don’t own their ideas are rarely as effective as leaders who do.

Can you own an idea that you didn’t come up with?

Of course you can.

But usually first, you need to

Wrestle with it

Rethink it back to first principles

Revise it

Test it

Adapt it

Then it’s yours.

Often we steal ideas because we think they’ll work, but we don’t know why they work.

And if that happens, when people ask us questions about an idea, we usually can’t answer them well, if at all.

“It worked somewhere else” is not a convincing line of reasoning.

If you can’t answer a deep line of questioning around an idea, you don’t own it.

4. You won’t change your system

When you’re borrowing ideas from other leaders and organizations, the change you ultimately need to make is deep and structural.

Borrowing a promising idea can be like putting new siding on a house whose foundation is crumbling. It looks great, but you really haven’t solved anything.

As Andy Stanley explains in his classic systems talk, your system—more than anything else—drives your outcome.

Often the change you need to make is deep, systemic and permanent.

As I explain in Lasting Impact, a bad governance system or other structural barriers will restrict the growth of your church.

A pastor who insists on doing most of the pastor care personally will permanently stunt the growth of your church (I explain why here).

If you’re not willing to re-invent everything in your church, you’ll never be satisfied with the change.

Any change usually means a systems change.

5. You’ll ignore context

I’m a little hesitant to mention context because about 99% of the time I hear leaders misuse it.

How? Most church leaders use context as an excuse, not as an explanation.

If you want to be completely ineffective as a church leader, please use your context as an excuse.

I could say more about using context as an excuse (I’m super-passionate about the subject), but I’ve written more fully on it here.

Here’s the bottom line: you can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

That said, there are two contexts leaders routinely miss: theirs and yours.

Think of borrowing ideas the same way you’d think about transplanting a tree: if you want the plant to thrive, you need to match the soil and nutrients of the transplant location to the soil and nutrients of the original location.

And not all plants thrive everywhere. Palm trees tend to do less well in Alaska than in Florida.

Study the source context for the idea:

Is the context a business context?

Is the church in the bible belt or a heavily unchurched area?

Is the church rural or urban?

What’s the ethnic makeup of the organization?

Is it a church plant or an established church?

What makes the leader I’m studying different from me?

Take notes and simply compare and contrast their situation to your situation. This will help you understand the why and the what of the idea or best practice.

Then make any adaptations you need to so the practice or idea thrives in your context.

But don’t use the differences as an excuse why something won’t work. Use it to gain understanding on how to make it work.

Poor leaders list a million reasons why something won’t work. Great leaders find the one reason it will.

Be that leader.

Borrow All The Best Practices and Ideas You Can

So what’s the bottom line?

Borrow (even steal) all the best practices and ideas you possibly can. Especially from successful organizations and churches.

And make sure:

You understand the models you’re studying

All the components of your strategy work together seamlessly

You own it

You’re making the deep system changes you need to

You understand context as way of ensuring your new idea thrives

That’s my best advice in this area.

What are you learning?

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

trust in leadership

How to Tell Who You Can Truly Trust in Leadership

So who can you trust… mean truly trust in leadership?

You’ve trusted people you thought you could trust, only to be disappointed or get burned (sometimes badly).

You’ve decided not to trust someone, only to realize you were wrong and he or she was completely trustworthy, and you missed a great opportunity to grow your team.

Trusting people in leadership can be a disheartening and confusing proposition.

But the stakes are high.

Put an untrustworthy person in a position of influence, and they can do a lot of damage fast.

Misjudge trust, and you will never have the team you need to lead you into a better future.

So…is it possible to tell in advance whom you can trust?

Can you ever build a team that you can stop worrying about, and just, well, trust? 

I believe you can.

Here’s how.

trust in leadership

A Better Definition of Trust in Leadership

First, let’s define trust.

I realize it may seem trite to define trust, but I think trust functions differently in leadership than in life.

Trust isn’t about whether you like someone, have a good feeling about them, or think they have potential.

At its heart, trust is confidence. It’s belief in someone’s reliability.

Trust in marriage is believing that even when you are apart you are faithful to one another.

Financial trust is believing that someone will use your money to your benefit, not theirs.

Trusting someone with your favourite keepsake is believing they will care for it as well as you would.

But leadership is more complex.

Just because you would personally trust someone with your wallet doesn’t mean you should trust them in leadership.

And that’s where many of us go wrong.

Many of us think if a person is trustworthy in life they’ll be trustworthy in leadership.

Not necessarily.

Having great character is a prerequisite to leadership; it’s a devastating mistake to invite people into leadership who lie, cheat, steal and do other untrustworthy things. That’s a given.

But you need a different standard, a more nuanced understanding of trust if your team and organization are going to become all they can be.

3 Ways to Tell Who You Can Truly Trust In Leadership

So how exactly do you assess trustworthiness in leadership, then?

Well, if you’re going to have a team that functions amazingly well that you can fully trust (whether that’s a staff team or a volunteer team), you need to address these three issues.

It’s taken me two decades in leadership to figure out a pattern of trust that’s accurate most of the time.

But once you learn the pattern, it’s easy to utilize.

Is it absolutely foolproof? No, but it’s proven to be a very reliable guide.

So with that said, here are 3 ways to tell who you can truly trust in leadership. I’ve framed it in the form of 3 questions.

1. Are they aligned?

This is the first question because it’s the question most leaders overlook. Ignore it, and it will ultimately sink your ship.

Alignment is critical in leadership. I’m going to assume your organization or church has a specific mission, vision and strategy. Almost every organization worth leading does.

Alignment ensures that your team is all pulling in the same direction.

A person may have outstanding character and a great heart, but if they are not aligned with your mission, vision and strategy, they not be an asset to your team.

In fact, they’ll create conflict.

When you try to steer the ship right, they will try to steer it left. When you want to move forward, they will want to move backward. And eventually, your ship might sink.

Alignment is NOT about putting ‘yes’ people in places of leadership.

Quite the opposite, an aligned team will have vigorous debate about how to accomplish the mission, but you won’t have to go through the frustrating, daily debate of which mission to accomplish.

If you want more on alignment, I wrote about 5 things North Point Church has taught me about alignment here.

2. What are their friends like?

Don’t know who said it, but they were right: Show me your friends and I’ll show you your life. 

One of the best things you can do when thinking about inviting a leader onto your team is to see who they hang out with: like attracts like.

A person’s friendship circle will tell you a lot about the kind of person they are…positively and negatively.

If you admire a potential leader’s friends, chances are you will love working with that potential leader. If you don’t, chances are you won’t.

If you see a circle of high capacity people who are very trustworthy around a potential leader, chances are that leader is trustworthy.

If you see a circle of backbiting, gossip, failed relationships or other struggles, chances are that’s what you’re recruiting.

The character of a potential leader’s friends will tell you a lot about their character.

You don’t need to judge here…you just need to discern.

The health of your organization and team matters too much for you to ignore this.

3. What’s their trajectory?

I love the idea of trajectory in leadership.

Trajectory is simply the path followed by an object in motion. You can predict an object’s future course by looking at its past.

The same is true of people.

Every potential leaders you’re considering has a track record…a past that will indicate how they might perform in the future. This is true even of kids and teens (what kind of student/friend are they?).

Often as a leader, you’ll be tempted to ignore a person’s track record. You’ve fallen in love with them (as a leader). And you’ve convinced yourself that ‘this time will be different….I know he/she just needs a better environment’.

Well, maybe. Kind of sounds like a bad marriage ready to happen, doesn’t it?

Wouldn’t you be wiser to look at their past and ask this question?

What have they done with what they’ve been given?

If they couldn’t make it work before, why would they be able to make it work with your team?

Conversely, if they took a small team and made it healthy and grow, maybe you could trust them with a larger team.

If they’ve been responsible with a little, maybe it’s reasonable to trust them with more. (This sounds almost biblical doesn’t it?)

That’s trajectory: a leader’s past is a preview of their future.

Does that mean you shouldn’t give a person a break? After all, maybe this time won’t be like the last time.

Sure, once in a while you might want to do this. But don’t give that person major responsibility when they’ve been irresponsible in the past. Give them a little bit. And pray for them. And help. And watch. And be honest with how they’re doing.

But never hire out of charity–at least if you want an organization that makes an impact. Charity is charity. Hiring is not. Churches mess this up all the time.

So by all means be charitable and radically generous. Give…and expect nothing in return.

For sure, you should always be helping and ministering to people and learning from people. They just don’t have to be the team you’re counting on to push your mission forward.

If you want to advance your mission, recruit people with the skill set you need for the job. Be charitable. But building a great team is not an act of charity.

Find leaders with a track record you want repeated in your organization.

Want More?

By the way, these three questions work personally too. If you’re wondering whether to invest more time with people, these three questions can clarify a lot.

If you want more on developing high capacity teams, this interview with Chris Lema is worth your time. He drops so many gems on how to develop high capacity talent—from scratch. You can listen below or subscribe to my Leadership Podcast for free on iTunes and jump onto Episode 39 with Chris.

I also write more about creating a healthy leadership culture and building high capacity volunteer teams in my new book, Lasting Impact. Learn more, and even download a free chapter, here.

What do you think?

Any other questions you’d add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Top 10

10 Top Insights from The Top 10 Blog Posts of The Year

You can grow a lot in a year—as a leader, as a person, as a follower of Christ. I truly hope you did in 2015.

When you look back on this past year, so much happened. The world changed—and continues to change—rapidly. This space is designed to be a place where you can process leadership, change and personal growth.

The US Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage, church attendance patterns continued to shift, and leadership continues to demand the best of us in a culture that’s rapidly becoming not just post-modern, but post-Christian.

Those are the issues that populated our conversations this past year.

So what did we learn together?

I’ve compiled the Top 10 posts of 2015 for easy reference and this year pulled my biggest (or most lasting) insight from each post.

I’d love to know what impacted you. You can leave a comment below.

Top 10

Determining the Top 10

The following ranking is purely based on page views associated with each post. Page views simply count how often the page was read.

Over 3 million leaders read the blog this year, and together you accessed these posts 3.9 million times. Having just started blogging intentionally 3 years ago, let me just say I continue to be shocked and amazed by all of this. And I count it an incredible privilege to have this dialogue with you. Trust me, your interaction in the comments and on social media shapes my thinking.

Among all the readers, the ones I connect with most deeply are those on my email list. When 2015 opened, 9,000 leaders had signed up to connect via email. That grew to almost 24,000 by the end of 2015. I’ll be connecting far more regularly via email in 2016, and if you want in, subscribe now.

I’ll be sharing the top insights from my Leadership Podcast in my next post. The podcast has been another exceptional forum for growth both for me and for many leaders. Subscribing is free and you can do it right now.

So, with all that, here are the Top 10 Posts of 2015:

#1. Some Advice On Same Sex Marriage

The number 1 post of 201ƒ5 was about the decision by the US Supreme Court to approve same sex marriage.

From the time the ruling came down on the last Friday in June, I had friends texting me asking me to blog on it. I told them ‘no’. I simply didn’t want to wade into the debate.

But over the weekend, my social media feed made me increasingly upset, even burdened for the discussion that was happening

As I watched the online frenzy that was unfolding, I felt like Christians were massively missing an opportunity to show grace even when we disagree with a decision.

That prompted me to write this post, which saw a million readers in 7 days—that’s about 4 times the audience of any other post I’ve written.

My top insight from that post? If you want to be ineffective at reaching unchurched people, judge them.

Clearly, we need to be building bridges to the people with whom we disagree. Especially to the people with whom we disagree.

Here’s the full post.

2. Why Even Committed Christians Attend Church Less Often

Cultural change continues to fascinate me, and clearly one of the massive shifts of our era is that even people who love Jesus attend church less often.

Why is that?

I launched a 5 part series beginning with this post that outlines 10 reasons even committed church attenders are attending church less often.

I’m still puzzling over the relationship between attendance and engagement.

Your most engaged people continue to be your best attenders. So instead of trying to drive attendance, drive engagement.

I’ll be writing more about attendance and engagement in early 2016. I think this could be the massive shift in thinking we need to take us to a new place.

Click here to read the full post.

3. Stupid Things The Church Does

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies.

That’s true in life, and it’s true in church life.

I wrote this gentle rant (gentle because, well, I am Canadian and all) about 5 stupid things we do as church leaders that drive people away.

One of the stupid things we do is use our platforms as leaders to trumpet our political views in the name of God.

After all, when God happens to have all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not worshipping God.

Read more on all 5 stupid things we do here.

4. Predictions About the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns

One thing is clear: the future will be different. Wise leaders are preparing now.

How different will the future church be? I think it will be significantly different in at least these 10 ways.

The top insight?

There’s a growing gap between church leaders who love their model (the way they do church) and church leaders who love the mission.

Again, I’ll write more about this in 2016, but churches who love their model more than their mission will die.

Here’s the full post with all 10 predictions about the future church.

5. Overlooked Practices Great Leaders Adopt That Poor Leaders Don’t

Sometimes as a writer, you publish a post because you have to produce one and can’t think of anything else to say.

That’s what happened one morning when I rattled off this post quickly listing 12 top-of-mind differences between great leaders and poor leaders.

I never expected it to resonate with leaders the way it did.

You can read about all 12 overlooked practices that great leaders adopt here.

My favourite insight? That great leaders don’t make excuses. After all, you can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

6. How Weekend Church Services Will Change

Change is a major theme on this blog, because increasingly, I think change is something we’re all dealing with daily.

In this post, I reflect on the nature of church services and outline 5 shifts in nature and feel that I think will make churches successful in the future.

One of the most important shifts for attractional churches is that in the future, services will be more of an experience, less of a show.

Think about that.

You can read about all 5 shifts that will happen in the future church here.

7. How to Make Your Church Completely Ineffective

When you’re unclear about what to do, it’s sometimes easier to discern what you should never do as opposed to pinpointing what you should do.

That’s where posts like this can help. In it, I outline 9 ways to make your church completely ineffective.

One of the best ways to kill the mission of your church is to become self-focused, thinking only about what pleases the preferences of your members. So many church leaders succumb to this trap.

What do almost all ineffective churches have in common? Ineffective churches are almost always self-focused.

Here’s the full post.

8. What People Blame the Church For…But Shouldn’t

I learned early on in ministry that people blame the church (and church leaders) for all kinds of things.

Some are deserved. Some aren’t.

So I wrote this post about 5 things people blame the church for…but shouldn’t.

The biggest aha moment for me came years ago revolves around spiritual growth. Think about it. The church can help you grow, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

To suggest otherwise simply defies both logic and a mature view of life. If I’m not growing, guess whose fault it is?

You got it. Mine.

Once you grasp that as a church leader or church member, the results are revolutionary.

Read about the other 4 things here.

9. Characteristics of Churches That Are Actually Reaching the Next Generation

Probably one of my biggest personal learning curves of 2015 has been to piece together a picture of the future church (4 of the top 10 posts deal with change in the church and the future church).

I loved this post as it came out of personal observation of a half dozen churches this year who are doing a great job reaching 18-35 year olds.

They had a lot of differences, but also shared 5 surprising characteristics.

Hands down what stuck out for me was that passion trumped polish. They all had decent facilities, but they weren’t nearly as polished in their facilities or even program as some churches.

What they had was white hot passion. It was contagious.

Even though this was the 9th most popular post of the year, this might be one of my top three insights of 2015: that when it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

Read all 5 characteristics of churches that are crushing it with Millennials here.

10. How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches

This post has only been out for 6 weeks, but it made it to the Top 10 list. I’m glad.

The problem with pastoral care in most churches is that it is done by the pastor. Structurally, this stunts the growth of most churches to below 200 attenders.

If you’re going to grow the church past that number, how you do pastoral care needs to change. I explain it all in the full post.

The good news? If you transition away from the pastor doing the pastoral care, most people will be cared for extremely well.

Here’s what I believe: 98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.

Own that, and your church can truly reach more people.

Any Favourite Insights?

So those were the Top 10 posts of 2015 by the numbers.

If you had to pick your favourite leadership insights of the year, what were they?

Share away in the comments below!


6 High-Yield New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make

If you’re like many leaders, you’re busy making resolutions this week. I think that’s a great idea.

Michael Hyatt outlines a number of compelling reasons you should actually write down your resolutions. The most persuasive for me is that you are 42% more likely to reach your goals if you write them down.

I was reminded of that this past week. When cleaning out a my office recently, I came across a list of written goals from 4 years ago.  There were over a dozen. I was both surprised and grateful to see I achieved 80% of them, and am on track to complete them all within the next two years (some were BIG goals).

You will have some resolutions that are specific and personal to you—which is great.

But there are some goals that every leader could benefit from accomplishing.


Here are 6 that continue to inspire and challenge me.

1. Work on your character as seriously as you work on your competency

It’s rare that competency fells top leaders; but character does.

As I’ve said before in this space, your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you.

A young leader I know recently took a weekend away to work on his character: he chose a time away to pray, reflect, journal and grow. Personally, I think that’s amazing.

Here are a few ways to develop your character:

Pray about it. Seriously, nothing will grow your character as much as direct time with God asking him to show you what you need to work on.

Ask others how you’re doing. I love the question Jeff Henderson asks: What’s it like to be on the other side of me? If you’re prepared to hear the truth, you’ll grow.

Spend some time away working on it, like the young leader I mentioned did.

I realize this kind of effort might sound strange, but the truth is you’d spend 3 days at a conference sharpening your skills without thinking about it. Why not spend that much time developing your soul?

Think about the benefits of a goal like this.

If you only work on your competency, you become better at work. But if you work on your character, you become a better spouse, parent, friend and person.

The benefits are life-changing.

2. Spend less time in meetings

This is a pet peeve of mine, but I am convinced too many leaders spend far too much time in meetings.

Meetings are often the enemy of your real work. The reason you work evenings and weekends is because you didn’t get your work done during the day, in great likelihood because you were in meetings.

Take a look at your schedule for a random week two months ago. Now look at all the meetings you were in that week.

Can you remember a single thing from any of those meetings? Probably not, unless they were an annual off-site, a strategic planning meeting or a brainstorming session to launch something new.

Chances are your week was consumed by the drivel of meetings that merely managed what you were currently doing. You could have cut those meetings in half and got your life back.

Need more convincing? Here are 5 compelling reasons to cut down the number of meetings you do.

3. Schedule the most important things

Sure, you waste a lot of time in unnecessary meetings.

But even if you cut your meetings in half, chances are you’re still struggle to get it all done.

Which is why it’s a great idea to write your most important commitments into your calendar.

Commitments like family night, exercise, a day off, a message writing day or whatever else you absolutely need to get done that nobody ever asks you to do.

Too many leaders spend their day responding to other people’s crises, and in the process create a crisis for themselves in being unable to manage their lives.

I wrote about how to schedule your life in this post, How to Stop Working 7 Days A Week.

4. Get up earlier

One of the top questions I get asked is “How do you get everything done (church leadership, writing, blogging, speaking, podcasting, teaching, being a husband and dad)?

The answer is a little more complex than “I get up early,” but the reality is getting up early every day is critical to me getting everything I do, done.

You know this is true of traffic patterns.

Say you have four stores to hit on a Saturday morning. Arriving when the first store opens is much smarter than showing up at 2:00 p.m. Traffic is so much lighter first thing in the morning than mid-Saturday afternoon. Errands that take an hour early Saturday can take double to triple just hours later.

The same is true of work.

Nobody texts you at 5 a.m. Nor does anyone email you or call you about a problem that demands your immediate attention.

You can move a LOT of freight before 8 a.m. if you work at it. If you’ve got young kids, even squeezing in an extra 30-60 minutes before they get up can mean you leave at 4 p.m. with your work done rather than leaving at 6 with an hour left to finish up after dinner.

Plus, generally speaking, you’re brighter and sharper in the morning than you are by 8:00 p.m. after a long day.

If you get your most important work done before breakfast, the rest of the day feels like a bonus rather than a burden.

5. Smile more

Everybody has a default expression on their face. Apparently, mine is that I look stressed and uptight.

I don’t feel stressed or uptight, but that’s how I come across to people because of my default look.

Years ago I had to learn to change that.

The antidote? Smile more.

In meetings. While walking around the office. Even when preaching.

Ever notice more preachers look angry when they teach?

Smile more. You’ll influence more people.

It’s still a daily discipline, but it makes a big difference.

6. Decide your employees don’t work for you, but that you work for them

The best leaders realize that their employees don’t work for them; they work for their employees.

A servant’s heart beats within the best leaders; they treat their employees with kindness, respect and empathy.

Rather than getting less from your team with this approach, you’ll actually get more. Motivated employees want to help their bosses succeed.

As the economy changes, this is even more important. Employee loyalty is down. Frustration is up. And the best workers today realize they have a lot of options they could pursue.

What will often keep an employee with an organization long term is not just adequate pay or perks; it’s people.

If you start to serve your team with a whole heart, you’ll discover that your team wants to spend more time serving you.

What Would You Do?

Those are 6 resolutions that will be part of my new year.

What other high-yield resolutions would you add to the list?

What do you think every leader should do? Scroll down and leave a comment.

energy management

How Managing Your Energy Can Make You A Far More Effective Leader

So you have a to-do list and you’ve prioritized tasks clearly, but you still struggle to get it all done and come home drained.

Why is that?

Sometimes it’s not just a question of becoming more organized, more efficient or getting a new app to track your life.

It’s one thing to manage your time. It’s entirely another to manage your energy.

Time management can help you make some progress. But break-through progress comes when leaders manage their energy.

The difference isn’t just about getting through your to-do list. It’s about bringing your best to your most important tasks.

And it’s about having energy left for time with God, for your family and for you.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve paid far more attention to energy management and have seen my capacity as a leader grow significantly.

So how do you do that?

You track what truly gives you energy, and what doesn’t. And then you build your day, your schedule and your life around it.

The exercise of tracking your energy will  take you very little time to complete, but in the end will save you countless hours.

It also has the potential to change everything from your productivity to how you feel about your job to how you leverage your gifts.

Here’s how to do it.

energy management


Step One: Identify When Your Energy Is At Its Peak

As we’ve talked about it before on the blog, time gets measured out equally over 24 hours each day.

Energy doesn’t. Smart leaders get that.

You likely only have a few hours each day that are your most productive.

Almost everyone’s mental focus, energy and even enthusiasm shifts as the day goes on. This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s biologically true. And it’s true for all of us, from early risers right through to night hawks.

So…study this: when is your energy at its peak? And when is it at its lowest?

It’s usually a 2-6 hour window.  Here are three ways to identify those windows:

Track your mood.

Monitor your productivity.

Ask people around you when they think you bring your best energy to the table.

Identify that time window and write it down.

Step Two (The Secret Sauce): Rank Activities in Terms of Whether they Energize You or Drain You

This next step really is the secret sauce.

Not only are not hours created equally, but all tasks are not created equally. You do not embrace every task with equal enthusiasm.  Pay attention to that.

Be completely honest with yourself:

There are some tasks you can’t wait to get to and some you dread.

Some tasks play right into your gift set, while some you find almost impossible to complete.

Certain tasks leave you feeling completely energized when you’re done; others make you feel like you’ve had the life drained out of you.

You know what I’m talking about.

Now, look at the kind of work you routinely do. By “work you routinely do” i mean not specific projects, but the kind of work you do as a rule.

So if you work in a church, some examples might include “respond to email, write reports, prepare spreadsheets, prepare talks, deliver talks, meet with leaders, meet with volunteers, recruit new team members, visit the sick, raise money,

Assign a number between 1 and 10 to every task you routinely do as part of your job:

10 = Can’t wait to do it. Leaves me energized.

5  = Neutral

1 = Dread it. Leaves me feeling drained.

Your sample list might look like this

10  Meet with leaders

7   Recruit new team members

7   Write messages

5   Finish the weekend service

4   Pastoral care

3   Respond to email

1   Clean my office

We all have to do things we don’t like. But you don’t need to spend your best energy doing them.

Step Three: Do What You’re Best At When You’re At Your Best

So how does all this fit together?


Take your two previous responses to these questions:

What’s your most productive time?

What are the top 5 things that energize you?

Put them together and then:

Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best

For example, if you dread email but love spreadsheets, don’t touch email until you’re already tired and use your best hours to design the best spreadsheets you’ve ever put together.

Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best, and leave the neutral activities and the things that drain you to your off peak hours.

Three things will happen:

You will become far more productive. You’ll be able to do twice the amount of your best work because you’re doing it when you’re at your best. 

You will become far more effective.

Imagine the organizational impact of doing what you’re best at over and over again when you’re at your best.

You will love your work so much more.

Personally, I love the first hours of the day when I get to create on a fresh canvas. The things that drain me will easily consume time, but they don’t have to consume my best time.

It’s Simple but Effective

What are you learning about doing your best work when you’re at your best?

Have you tried that? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment!

grow bigger

How to Structure Your Church To Grow Past 200 Attenders

It’s one thing to want to see your church grow.

It’s entirely another to position your church structurally so you can accommodate growth.

If you structure bigger, you can grow bigger. If you don’t, you won’t.

Earlier this week I was connecting with a pastor who has seen his church grow from 200 in attendance over 450 in attendance in the last 2 years.

That’s a lot of growth in a short window of time. He’s actually scaling what 90% of churches never scale: the 200 attendance mark.

He’s also figuring out the changes he needs to make. Changes that most leaders miss:  how he spends his time and how he structures his team.

That might seem surprising, but that’s exactly what he should be figuring out. It’s the key to growing your church past 200 on a sustainable basis.

Preaching, prayer and trust in God are not what’s going to keep his church from growing. He’s always pursued those with passion. As, I imagine, have many of you.

One of the chief challenges that will keep his church from growing centres on structure.

As I wrote about in my recent book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, if you want your church to grow, you need to structure bigger to grow bigger.

So how do you do that? This post is a little technical, but I hope it will help you and your team put your finger on all those things you haven’t been able to really put your finger on.

These tips have helped us at Connexus Church grow from a start up eight years ago to almost 1100 attenders today. I hope they can help you.

grow bigger

How To Restructure Your Time As a Leader

As your church grows, so will the demands on your time.

When your church or organization is small, you can accommodate all the requests on your time. As it grows, that simply has to change.

More people equals more requests, and that reality will completely overrun your life if you let it.

You’ll burn out responding to people’s needs, which ironically means people’s needs go unmet.

So how do you spend your time?

That’s what you need to decide. I make a strong argument you should NOT spend your time doing pastoral care in this post.

Remember, no one will ever ask you to complete your top priorities (say, sermon preparation or strategic planning or even prayer);  they will only ask you to complete theirs.

That’s why you need to decide ahead of time how you spend your time.

These two posts contain some of my best tips on time management and that help answer my most frequently asked question—how do you get everything you do done? 

How to Stop Working 7 Days A Week

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

Another massive shift in time management you will need to make as your church grows is to cut down the number of meetings you’re involved in.

This post can help tremendously with doing just that:

5 Persuasive Reasons You Spend Way Too Much of Your Time in Meetings

Sure, there may be a season where you sprint through some productive planning meetings, but if you spend your life in meetings, you will never get your real work done or your true mission accomplished.

The next changes are all focused on how to build and grow staff teams as your church grows.

How to Restructure Your Staff

Most churches start with a very small staff. That’s normal.

But as your church grows, your staff will grow. And as it grows, you need to change how you interact with them.

When our church started, there were just a handful of staff. We were in start-up phase, and more than once we made decisions in the car while we were driving somewhere.

In regular staff meetings, we’d talk about everything we were facing because, well, the whole team was there.

But you soon grow out of the phase.

Over the last eight years we’ve added a leadership team and an executive team.

As a result, our staff meetings needed to become something very different.

These days, our staff (about 15 people) meets every other week to celebrate wins (how do we know we’re accomplishing our mission?) and to share general information about what’s happening and clarify anything that’s become unclear.

That may sound trite, but it’s not.

It’s the job of the leader to keep the team healthy, motivated and clear.

If you don’t think thats important, trying serving in an unhealthy, unmotivated and unclear team for a while. You’ll quit.

A few months ago we started short 15 minute huddles a few times a week to connect on our most urgent priorities and keep the team connected (thanks to Chris Lema for the tip). People dial in via video conferencing if they’re working remotely. It keeps a growing team on the same page.

The biggest shift? We don’t make decisions at staff meeting anymore. 

We simply focus on keeping people on mission, on vision, on strategy, healthy and encouraged.

Tips on Adding a Leadership Team

Shortly after launch, as our staff grew, we added a leadership team that consisted of some of the more senior staff.

At first, we used this team to make decisions, but eventually that broke down (when we were about 600 in attendance).

Why? Because the Leadership Team became the bottleneck.

If Leadership Team failed to meet, decisions didn’t get made. If our agenda was too long to cover everything in a meeting, leaders might have to wait a month for a decision. It was a recipe for intransigence.

So a few years ago, we switched to push down decision making. Essentially, we have leaders permission to make decisions, and teams stopped making them.

That’s been a much better process for us. If you’re interested in exactly how we did that and what criteria we use, I outlined that process here.

We kept Leadership Team, but I refocused it to working on the mission rather than in the mission.

When you work on the mission rather than in the mission, your mission tends to advance.

We focused more on reading books together, talking honestly about how things were going and working on medium to long term objectives together.

Maybe You Need An Executive Team

A few years back, I also created an Executive Team composed of two or three senior staff who began to serve more as a personal advisory team.

Executive Team was created to help me process the most significant directional issues for the church, deal with sensitive HR issues and help us plot out the 30,000 foot issues for the church.

It’s not a decision making body, but obviously, if you want buy-in on decisions and aligned team, it’s a good idea to hash out good ideas until they become great ideas and other leaders own them.

Executive Team has served that function well for us, and it frees up Leadership Team to do what it needs to do and the Staff Team to do what they need to do.

Tips on Restructuring Elders

Of all the groups of leaders who meet, the elders are among the most critical and the most confusing.

In a small church, the elders often govern by managing. Sometimes by micromanaging. That’s understandable (who is going to manage in the absence of staff?), but it’s a bad idea.

If your elders try to micromanage a church beyond 200 people in attendance, they either need to change or you need new elders.

Micromanaging elders will permanently stunt the growth of a church to below 400. It is impossible for a board to stay on top of a church larger than that, and if they insist on doing it, they will never govern a church larger than 400.  Structurally, it’s impossible.

Several things need to change between an elder board and the senior leader as the church grows.

1. Trust needs to deepen with the senior pastor

Trust is the greatest currency a leader has or a church has. The deeper the trust, the more effective the ministry.

The challenge in many churches is the board doesn’t trust the staff, or the senior pastor, or each other. This is horrible.

As the senior leader, you need to either look in the mirror and see if there’s a good reason not to trust you, or move the distrusting elders off the board.

2. Elders need to stop micromanaging

The reason a board shouldn’t micromanage is simple: you can’t manage a complex organization in two hours a month. And if you try, you will keep shrinking the church down to the size of what you can manage in a narrow window of time.

This is a tough transition for a lot of boards, but one they can make if they see the issue and are willing to adapt.

The board will get full disclosure on budget and key items, as it should, but examining at a $2,000,000 budget is very different than examining a $20,000 budget.

But, where trust is healthy and high and the staff is competent, instead of drilling down on how many paper clips are being used each year, the board can help the leader focus on healthy ratios of staffing costs to mission, growth challenges and the like.

After all, a great staff team will make sure there are no more paper clips being used than necessary. And the board knows that.

3. The board refocuses on guiding the mission

The most important function of a board is to guard and guide the mission of the church that they’ve all agreed on.

When the staff, elders and senior leaders are all aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy, the church becomes so much healthier (I wrote more about what an aligned team looks like and the benefits it offers in this post).

Because trust is high, the elder’s main job is to ensure the senior leader stays true to the mission, and the senior leader’s job is to help the elders do the same.

Over the years, I’ve also enjoyed a deep relationship with the elders and have used them as a sounding board for new ideas, new direction and new initiatives.

When trust runs deep, those conversations are life-giving and energize not only them and me, but ultimately the entire church.

What Are You Learning

What are you learning about changing your structure as the church grows?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

tackle your critics

5 Much Healthier Ways To Tackle Your Critics

Criticism comes your way almost every day if you’re in leadership.

The guy in the back row didn’t like your last message. Another person wonders what all you people in ministry actually do with your time.

Someone you barely know leaves a snarky remark on your Facebook. A pseudonymous troll leaves a scathing comment on your blog. Or a colleague pulls you aside to comment on the way you handled the last meeting.

Like me, you probably live under the false hope that you can lead in a way that will lead to universal approval. You live with the faint hope that you can be clever enough, faithful enough and deft enough to avoid the critics.

And you’d be wrong.

Actually, there’s only one way to avoid criticism in your life: do nothing significant.

As soon as you do something significant—in other words, as soon as you begin to lead—you’ll draw critics.

Do anything significant and the critics will come running.

So how do you handle the critics without losing your mind, your temper or getting so discouraged that you pack it in?

handle the critics

How To Tackle Your Critics

In all likelihood, your natural responses to criticism and critics will be unhealthy. At least my natural responses are.

Here are 5 ways to tackle your critics and the criticism that comes your way.

1. Don’t let the critics crush your heart

The biggest challenge I have is not letting criticism go to my heart.

Almost by default, when someone criticizes what I’ve done, I take it personally. Too personally.

I let the critic deflate whatever amount of air was left in the balloon. I ignore all the encouragement that has come my way and obsess over the complaint.

Chances are your reaction is the same.

You’ve likely never lost sleep because you were overwhelmed with compliments. But you have lost sleep because of one measly complaint.


As Tim Keller has said, when our identity is wrapped up in our work, success goes to our heads and failure goes to our heart.

As I outlined in this post, leaders should always take leadership seriously, but not too personally.

What you do is not who you are. Your calling is not your identity.

When you get that right…your heart stays healthier in leadership.

And it’s so important to keep your heart alive and beating for the mission to which you’re called.

When you lose heart, you lose hope. And when you lose hope, you stop leading.

So guard your heart.

2. Look for any truth

If you can avoid the heart-crush that comes with criticism, you’ll be able to grow from it.

I had to train myself to do this, but these days I look for any truth that might be present in a critic’s comments.

If you can get past your instinctive tendency to defend, rebut and dismiss criticism, you’ll grow from it.

Maybe your sermon wasn’t horrible, but perhaps you weren’t as clear as you might have been.

Maybe you weren’t quite as ineffective in the meeting as your colleague said you were, but perhaps you could have done better.

Look for the truth, even in the most scathing criticism. Even pray that God would show you the truth.

If you want to grow as a leader and a person, analyzing criticism for truth can help immensely.

If you want some tips on responding to your critics directly, I share my top 5 tips for having a critical, conflicted conversation here.  All 5 skills are transferable to directly responding to a critic.

3. Have an honest conversation with someone who’s for you

Many leaders suffer from mirror-distortion syndrome. What’s that?

Well you know when you look in the mirror and you’re actually thin but you’re convinced you’re fat, or you’re actually overweight but you’re convinced you’re thin? Few of us have accurate self-perceptions.

That’s why great friends who are for us are so helpful.

You may or may not be able to spot the truth in a critic’s comment, but a good friend can do it for you.

Instead of starting with a question like “Hey did you think I was overbearing  in that meeting?” (which would cause them to defend you), start with an open question like “How did that meeting go in your view?” Then part way through the conversation ask more specific questions about how you behaved, and tell them you’re open and listening because you want to grow.

Guess what will happen?

You’ll grow.

The most valuable people around a leader are never people who tell you what you want to hear; they’re the people who tell you what you need to hear—in love.

4. Consider the source

Not all criticism is created equal.

Getting blasted on line by some anonymous troll living his mother’s basement is not the same as having a respected leader who knows you offering some feedback.

If you’re getting critiqued by a well-informed critic, listen up. Respectfully. Be thankful. That person has just made you a better leader, a better person and likely a stronger Christ-follower (teachability is a key characteristic of discipleship).

So what about the trolls, the constant complainers and the cheap shots people love to take?

You have to be careful with what I outline below, but I’ve found this line of thinking…. helpful.

Here we go: Often, people doing something significant with their lives get criticized by people doing nothing significant with theirs.

Why is it that people who have accomplished very little with their lives are completely convinced they can run a multibillion dollar business far better than the CEO? Or their favourite pro team better than their coach? Or the nation better than anyone? (To which I always say, then get off your couch and do something with your life.)

Criticism is always easier than contribution.

And leadership means contributing, not just criticizing.

Theodore Roosevelt said it so well over a century ago:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

When you get discouraged, just remember: people doing something significant are most often criticized by people doing nothing significant with theirs.

5. Humbly move on

What do you have an easier time remembering, the last compliment you received or the last criticism? Exactly.

Criticism can linger inside you for far longer than it needs to.

You need to move on, humbly.

Once you have extracted all the truth you can from a situation, processed it with a friend who is for you and prayed about it, it’s time to move on.

You’re stronger. You’re better. Hopefully, you’re wiser.

Let it go. You’ve learned. Now it’s time to lead.

What Are You Learning?

What are you learning about handling critics and criticism?

If you want more, I have an entire chapter on becoming a healthier leader in my new book, Lasting Impact, 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow. You can pick up a copy here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Scroll down and leave a comment!

grateful leaders

5 Reasons Grateful Leaders Make the Best Leaders

Ever notice the leaders you’re most attracted to tend to be the most grateful?

At least that’s true for me.

Grateful leaders make the best leaders.

And yet being in leadership can make you ungrateful…quickly.

You feel a pressure few others feel. You have responsibilities that will never fit into a job description.

You carry a weight around with you wherever you go.

It can wear you down.

One of the disciplines I’ve had as a leader is learning how to become grateful and stay grateful.

Sometimes the best way for me to do that is to remind myself why grateful leaders make the best leaders.

Here are 5 reasons why that’s true.

grateful leaders

1. Your overall gratitude impacts your overall attitude

A grateful leader tends to be a great leader. An ungrateful leader, well, never is.

I find when my gratitude is high, I just lead better.

I’m kinder. I’m more compassionate. I’m less resentful. I’m less suspicious.

Your overall gratitude impacts your overall attitude. So be grateful.

2. A grateful leader sees opportunities others miss

I believe a grateful attitude is tied to an abundance mentality. I’m a firm believer in abundance thinking.


If we have a God who created everything we see out of nothing and who rose after he died, he can accomplish anything—through me, without me and in spite of me. If he uses me…wow…that’s amazing!

Being grateful for what you have is tied, in a meaningful way, to thinking abundantly about the future.  Again…why?

Well, an ungrateful mind tends to translate what hasn’t happened into what can’t happen, what won’t happen and what will never happen.

A grateful mind thinks about everything that happened, gives thanks, and trust that even greater things can happen, will happen and should happen.

A grateful leader will almost always find the path to an abundant future.

And, for the ‘realists’ out there, you think feeling grateful won’t change anything?

Few people said it better than Henry Ford when he said, “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.”

As a leader, what you think determines what you do.

3. Gratitude fuels generosity

I learned this principle years ago from Andy Stanley. Nothing fuels generosity more than gratitude.

Think about it. If someone’s given you anything (cash, a gift, their time), nothing makes that person want to give again quite like gratitude.

If you’re thankful for the time you’ve spent together, they’ll want to get together again. If you’re not, they won’t.

Ditto with giving to a church or organization. Leaders who are genuinely grateful for whatever they receive tend to be surrounded by people who want to give more.

Ungrateful leaders are soon surrounded by non-givers or, ultimately, by no one.


4. Teams gravitate toward gratitude

Your team gravitates toward gratitude. Far too many people despise their work because they feel underappreciated.

You should always pay people well—as generously as you can in fact.

But even money has its limits.

Eventually, you can’t pay people enough to overcome an ungenerous spirit.

I’ve known people who have taken pay cuts because they would rather work for someone who was grateful than for an ungrateful leader.

Leaders, remember: gratitude is the greatest currency with which a leader can pay a team.

And, when it comes to volunteers, gratitude is pretty much all your volunteers run on.

The best leaders realize that even their employees are, at their core, volunteers. Every capable person could work somewhere else.

5. Gratitude neutralizes your anger and jealousy

Grateful people are rarely angry.

And angry people are rarely grateful.

Ditto with jealous people.

Cultivating gratitude will make you far less angry (you’ll realize no one owes you anything) and it will make you far less jealous (because you’ll realize God has given you what you need).

Want to be far less angry and jealous? Stay on your knees long enough to be grateful.

What Makes You Grateful?

What helps you cultivate gratitude? I’d love to hear from you.

I wrote this post on 5 things that make me more grateful when I’m feeling ingratitude.

I’d love to hear your perspective. Scroll down and leave a comment.


How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches

Of all the mysteries that shouldn’t be mysteries, why most churches remain small is perhaps the greatest.

I’m sure there are a few leaders who want to keep their churches small, or who don’t care about growth.

But most small church leaders and pastors I meet actually want to reach more people. They want to see their mission fully realized. They hope and pray for the day when they can reach as many people as possible in their community.

But that’s simply not reality.

The Barna group reports the average Protestant church size in America as 89 adults. 60% of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2% have over 1000 adults attending.

As a result, the dreams of pastors of most small and even mid-sized churches go unrealized. Why?

I outlined 8 reasons most churches never break the 200 attendance mark in this post, but today I want to drill down deeper on one that kills almost every church and pastor: pastoral care.

If pastors could figure out how to better tackle the issue of pastoral care, I’m convinced many more churches would grow.

Here’s why. And here’s how.

shutterstock_62970499How Pastors Die Trying

When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and funeral and make regular house calls, attend every meeting, and lead every bible study or group, he or she becomes incapable of doing almost anything else.

Message preparation falls to the side, and providing organizational leadership for the future is almost out of the question.

The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.

It’s somewhat ironic, actually.

If you’re a good pastoral care person (and many pastors are), people will often love you so much that the church will grow to two hundred people, at which point the pastoral care expectations become crushing.

Inevitably, pastoral leaders with larger churches can’t keep up and end up disappointing people when they can’t get to every event any more.

Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.

Many pastors burn out trying.

The pastoral care model most seminaries teach and most congregations embrace creates false and unsustainable expectations.

Consequently, almost everyone gets hurt in the process.

The pastor is frustrated that he or she can’t keep up. And the congregation is frustrated over the same thing.

Eventually the pastor burns out or leaves and the church shrinks back to a smaller number. If a new pastor arrives who also happens to be good at pastoral care, the pattern simply repeats itself: growth, frustration, burnout, exit.

It’s ironic. They very thing you’re great at (pastoral care) eventually causes your exit when you can no longer keep up.

Or, if you stay for a long time, your church settles down to around 100 people and you simply can’t grow it beyond that.

Why? Because, as I explain in some detail in my new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, you haven’t structured bigger to grow bigger.

Complication 1: Pastors Who Won’t Let Go

Several other factors make pastoral care complicated.

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature (if that’s you…read this). Wanting to not disappoint people fuels conflict within leaders: people want you to care for them, and you hate to disappoint them.

In some respect, pastoral care establishes classic co-dependency. The congregation relies on the pastor for all of its care needs, and the pastor relies on the congregation to provide their sense of worth and fulfilment: the pastor needs to be needed.

Complication 2: Congregations That Won’t Let Go

Many congregations define the success of their leader according to how available, likeable and friendly their pastor is.

It’s as though churches want a puppy, not a pastor.

Since when did that become the criteria for effective Christian leadership?

By that standard, Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, the Apostle Paul and perhaps even Jesus failed the test.

The goal of Christian leadership is to lead, not to be liked.

That’s no excuse for being a jerk or insensitive, but still, leadership requires that at times, you need to do what’s best, not what people want.

If a church is going to grow, congregations have to let go of the expectation that their pastor will be available for every medical emergency, every twist and turn in their lives, every family celebration and every crisis.

That’s a tough sell for many congregations, but if a church is going to grow, it has to happen.

How to Break Through

So how do you deal with this?  Have the courage to shift care to the congregation.

The best answer I know of for pastoral care in a larger church is to teach people to care for each other in groups.

Groups based care isn’t just practical. It’s biblical.

It’s thoroughly biblical: going back to Exodus 18, when Jethro confronted Moses about doing everything himself.

Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of  disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one.

I have been the pastoral care giver in a small church. Some of those original people are now part of our much larger church where care happens in groups. In the process, both they and I have made the transition.

As a result, here’s what I’ve come to believe about pastoral care: 98% of pastoral care is having someone who cares. It doesn’t have to be the pastor.

2% of the time you’ll have situations where the need of a member exceeds the ability of the group to help. That’s what trained Christian counsellors are for. The tool kit of a trained Christian counsellor is deeper and better than the counselling ability of the vast majority of pastors.

I rarely if ever counsel people. Why? Because I care about people too much. Instead, I send them to people who can actually help them.

If you’re wondering how to start the discussion, I started it with my elders and leaders when we were about 100 in attendance and told them my role would be changing. I used this book as a resource, and told them that we would never break 200 in attendance unless I stopped doing pastoral care.

It was a tough, but we made it.  We now have a church of 2300 people with almost 1100 in attendance on weekends.

It’s tempting to say I’d be dead if I was still trying to do pastoral care personally, but that’s simply not true.

I’d be alive, very tired (it’s not my key gifting) and our church would be under 200 people. I also likely would have quit. We would never have grown. That’s the reality.

It’s simply impossible for a church to grow beyond 200 under one person’s direct care and leadership.

Too Scared?

Too scared to have the conversation?

If you’re a people pleaser, do what you need to do to get over it. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people.

If you’re afraid to have the conversation, have it anyway. I actually designed my latest book, Lasting Impact, to facilitate 7 critical conversations like this directly with your board and leadership team.

Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end.

Eventually, many of them will thank you.

And the rest? Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching a lot people either.

I’m convinced that if we changed how we do pastoral care, we’d reach more people. And in the process, we’d care for people much better than we do now.

If you want to go deeper, on Episode 58 of my free weekly leadership podcast, Beth Marshall explains how they do pastoral care at NewSpring church, a church that reaches over 40,000 people each weekend.

What do you think? Scroll down and leave a comment.