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insecure leaders

5 Things Insecure Leaders Wrongly Believe

Ever notice that so many of the challenges you face as a leader happen in your mind?

Me too.

Why is that?

Well, so much of leadership is actually not a battle with others, it’s a battle with yourself.

And a good portion of that battle arises out of insecurity.

Barnabas Piper and Todd Adkins interview me this week for their 5 Leadership Questions podcast. You can listen here. This week’s release is Episode 113 (I was also a guest previously on Episode 80).

Barnabas and Todd asked me to comment on 5 lies leaders believe (especially church leaders).

The conversation was fascinating…as it mostly goes back to insecurity. And I thought it was worth a blog post.

Here are 5 lies leaders wrongly believe.

insecure leaders

1. I must know everything about everything

This trips up so many leaders, and it was a tough one for me when I was starting out.

Most leaders who think they need to know everything feel that way because they know they don’t.

That insecurity can be paralyzing.

The funny thing is…when you fake an answer, people can tell you don’t know. Rather than gaining confidence in your leadership, your guesses, fake answers and ‘covering’ actually causes people to lose confidence in you.

One of the most glorious answers a leader can give is “I don’t know.”

Period.

You don’t need to be defensive.

Just look them in the eye, securely, and admit you don’t know. You don’t even need to go the uber-achiever route and say, “But I’ll find out.”

You might say “I don’t know, but what do you think?” Or “I don’t know, but I’m sure we have someone here who might. Let’s see.” Or you might just say “I don’t know.”

When you do that, you elevate the team. You actually build up the ability of others to contribute.

Frankly, I trust people who tell me the truth far more than people who cover their insecurity with guesses and partial knowledge.

2. I must be prominent and lead from the front

I think in the early days of leadership, most of us instinctively want to lead from the front.

Frankly, during the first decade of my leadership, I was too insecure not to.

But over the last decade, as I’ve become more comfortable with who I am and who I’m not, I’ve been able to do a better job leading more people than ever with less ‘up front’ time than ever.

In fact, in the last few years, I’ve been thinking constantly about what John the Baptist said:  “He must become greater. I must become less.” Naturally, this applies to Christ, but I think it also applies to others.

That’s why I’m fixated on handing off our ministry at Connexus to the next generation… and that my role doesn’t always have to be front and centre.

Every church planter needs to ask this question: “Is what started with me going to end with me?”

The more secure you are, the easier that becomes to answer that with a no. I’m working on it. Hard.

So…if you want to build a ministry that endures, don’t build it around someone who will die.

3. I must prove myself constantly

Ask yourself this: to whom are you trying to prove yourself? To God? To others?

If it’s God, you’re already approved. That had something to do with a cross on a hillside out of Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

And we all know leaders (even Christian leaders) who are constantly trying to prove themselves.

You know what happens?

Leaders who try to prove themselves lose themselves. You actually never discover who you are because you’re not comfortable enough to look inside and discover what’s already there.

My favourite leaders are those who have developed a quiet confidence. They know what they’re good at and what they’re not, but they’re not loud about it. They consistently and humbly play to their strengths and have no difficulty admitting their weaknesses (see point 1).

If you can’t admit you’re wrong because you’re always trying to prove yourself, remember: People admire your strengths but resonate with your weaknesses.

When you can accurately (and even quietly) lead well and admit your mistakes, people trust you.

4. My follower’s success is a threat to me

So many leaders feel threatened by the success of the people around them—even the people they lead.

Big mistake.

You shouldn’t feel threatened by the success of your followers. You should celebrate it.

A leader’s success is ultimately tied to the success of their followers.

Great leaders don’t build great platforms; they build great people.

So how do you do that?

Well, start by murdering your insecurity.

Brian Houston had one of the best answers I’ve heard on this subject. When I interviewed him on my leadership podcast (you can listen to it here), I asked Brian how he’s managed to keep so much talent around him over the years.

I loved his response. He said, “You raise the ceilings.”

Raise the ceilings, and you’ll eventually be surrounded by giants.

If you want to learn more about developing a great leadership pipeline, the team at LifeWay Leadership (where Todd and Barnabas serve) has developed a number of resources to help you begin developing a generation of new leaders at your church.

  • Free E-BookletDeveloping Your Leadership Pipeline
  • Free Leadership App – featuring blogs, podcasts, training videos, and more
  • Pipeline – A Conference for Church Leaders – October 13-14 in Nashville, TN

I’ll be delivering one of the keynotes at the Pipeline Conference in October in Nashville. Join me and 6,000 other leaders this October.

5. I emphasize mission, vision and values enough

On the podcast, I said this one is perhaps the only statement of the five lies that doesn’t arise out of insecurity.

As I’ve thought about it further, now I’m not so sure.

You know what insecure people are? They’re self-focused.

Their needs end up trumping the needs of the organization.

And here’s the truth: you will get tired of casting vision, talking about the mission and celebrating values.

So the question becomes, do you do what you feel like doing or do you do what’s best for the mission?

Great leaders never only do what they feel like doing: they do what furthers the mission of the people they lead.

An insecure leader will flit from feeling to feeling. A secure leader will wake up and do what’s best, even if she thinks she’s done it 1000 times.

Secure leaders can focus on something bigger than themselves because they’re over themselves.

What Do You Think?

I’m a huge podcast fan. I hope you listen to the 5 Leadership Podcast Questions podcast.

I also host a weekly leadership podcast you can listen to for free every week. In fact, if you subscribe for free, you’ll never miss an episode and have access to my back catalogue at your fingertips.

I interview today’s top leaders like Brian Houston, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Jenni Catron, Mark Batterson, Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, Kara Powell, Chris Brown, Jon Acuff, Lewis Howes and many more. You can subscribe here.

On Episode 61 of my podcast, Josh Gagnon, pastor of one of the fastest growing and largest churches in the history of New England, and I have a gut-honest conversation about how even successful leaders struggle with insecurity.

I’d love to know if there are other lies you’ve noticed that insecure leaders believe.

Just scroll down and leave a comment!

suck at vacation

Why Driven People Suck at Vacation (And 5 Ways To Fix It)

So summer is here and you’re trying to take some time off.

Ever notice that’s what driven leaders say all the time?

I’m going to try to take two weeks off.

I’m gonna try to unplug.

I’m trying to relax.

We A-types suck at vacation, don’t we?

It also really sucks if you’re married to us. Or we’re your parents.

How bad is it?

So bad that I included the “5 ways to fix it” subtitle to this post to get you to click on this article because you’re so driven you wouldn’t read an article on how to vacation unless it included a to-do list.

How do I know this?

Because I’m one of you. I’m actually finishing this post at an airport while everyone else talks and I’m trying to wrap it up because the flight we’re boarding has no wifi.

Yep, I’m speaking my native tongue.

Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me.

But I also understand how important it is.

Sabbath is God’s idea. And, as I discovered when I burned out, if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.

I know people who can take time off easily… they don’t worry, they’re never tempted to check email, they can easily shut down social media for a week, and they find a hammock to be relaxing.

That person is not me.  I think a few of you can relate.

What’s frustrating is that you hear people give advice all the time about powering down, not checking email, getting offline and just relaxing…vacation is easy for them. But not for some of us. 

So over the years I’ve developed these 5 vacation rules that, if observed, make shutting off all the devices and truly taking a break easier.

They help me, as a driven person, relax better.

suck at vacation

1. Prepare for your vacation, don’t just take it 

I used to run into my holidays full speed, and it would take me half my holidays to unwind.

Take some time before your holiday to prepare for your holiday. Use your evenings to rest up before you leave.

Pack ahead of time. Build the anticipation. When I do this, I can start day one of vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy.

Last year for the first time, I took a week off before our family left for a week together, just to unwind alone and be ready for them when they were free. It helped.

2. Equip your team, and yourself, for your break 

Leaving work behind is hard work.

I wasn’t good at this for years.  Now I spend time before leaving asking “what does my team need while I’m away so they can run optimally and so I can rest?”

If all of that is lined up, then they have what they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.

The next step is even more important: let go.

I did this recently when my wife and I went to Australia. I spent almost zero time online (except TripAdvisor or Instagram for fun), fought no fires and let my team handle everything. We had two of the best weeks we’ve had together in years.

But more than that, great things happened back home. The church grew. And my podcast had the single biggest month in its almost two-year history (I lined up all the episodes before I left and gave my team the job of posting them).

You know what I learned? When you let go, things grow.

Early in my leadership, I never would have believed it. Now I do.

3.  Delegate authority and responsibility

While this is good practice all the time, make sure you leave behind real decisions, real authority and real responsibility.

My team can call the shots while I’m away. My assistant handles my email for my entire vacation.  If you don’t have an assistant, use an autoresponder and plan to spend your first or second day back sorting through email.

If you plan for it, you won’t worry about it while away.

4.  Find out what fuels you

I have friends who love to vacation at bed and breakfasts, chat with the locals and make new friends during their holiday. For me, that would be the opposite of vacation.

My ideal vacation is where I go somewhere with my family,  I don’t know anyone, and I don’t need to talk to anyone who might know me.  I suppose it’s a way to refuel for living in a world where so many people know me and I get stopped for conversation virtually everywhere I go (happens to a lot of us in ministry).

I also know it’s important for me to be in an environment that refuels me.

Camping is my nemesis. Give me a good hotel and some day-trips any day and I’m good to go.

We’ve worked it through as a family to the point where when we do the kind of vacation we’re currently doing, everyone comes back rested and recharged, ready to go.

If you don’t know what fuels you, even your vacation can drain you.

5. Pick a goal for your holidays

My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Obviously, one of my goals is to spend meaningful time with my family; I also use vacation time as time to connect with God.

But I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time alone and with my family more. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal.

I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals.

Do you suck at vacation?

How about you?  What vacation rules do you have?

Or do you just unplug and think us A types are crazy?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

ripping off other preachers

Why You Should Stop Ripping Off Other Preachers (The Led Zeppelin Scenario)

Ever get jealous of a line or idea that another preacher or communicator came up with you wish you had thought of?

Me too.

It’s tempting to think of stealing it and to hope no one notices you didn’t think of it.

Well, all I can say is we preachers ought to be thankful that we don’t face the kind of lawsuits Led Zeppelin did recently accusing them of stealing the introductory riff from Stairway to Heaven off a lesser known band.

The jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to show Led Zeppelin borrowed the introduction for its mega-hit from a song called Taurus by L.A. band Spirit.

So, good for Led Zeppelin. Other bands have not been so lucky. And whether they’re vindicated or not, any band sued racks up tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs to prove their innocence.

The Led Zeppelin case reminds me that plagiarism (stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own) is a serious offence.

Ever wonder what would happen if preachers were held to a similar standard?

With the proliferation of podcasts, free sermon downloads and constant connectivity that describes our era, plagiarism in the church may be at an all-time high.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard lesser-known preachers steal other preachers key ideas and pass them off as their own—with no attribution.

In law, that’s technically a crime.

Now before you go all 1 Corinthians 6 on me and tell me that Christians should not sue one another (I agree), or point out there’s nothing new under the sun or that we’re all in this together, hear me out: I’m with you.

But just because we’re all part of the same Kingdom doesn’t mean we should go ripping each other off and claiming a thought was our idea.

I propose a rule for preachers that goes something like this:

Write your own stuff. And if you didn’t, tell people you didn’t.

That’s it.

Because if you don’t, there are at least five things you’re messing up as a leader.

shutterstock_273018893So what can I borrow?

There’s actually nothing morally wrong with borrowing other people’s great ideas.

But be honest and tell people you didn’t think of it yourself.

If you don’t think this is an epidemic, please know I’m not even close to being the most well-known preacher on the planet, nor the best-known writer. But my team has found other preachers preaching our local series verbatim, with no permission and zero attribution. Even the jokes were re-used. (Note, we happily share our message series with churches that ask. This particular guy didn’t ask.)

Ditto with my blog. My team has found other bloggers who have taken my content, pasted it word for word into their blog, and written their name above the post as the author. (We’ve asked them to take it down.)

So what’s the problem with idea-theft, sermon-theft or writing-theft? Well, clearly it’s not financial. Few of us stand to make millions (or even hundreds) off of having original message or blog ideas. It’s a free economy that way. And we ARE in this together.

But here are 5 things that are simply wrong about plagiarism:

1. You want people to think you’re smarter than you actually are

Let’s be honest…the real reason we borrow other people’s ideas and make them appear to be ours is so it makes us look smarter than we are.

Don’t think you can give credit and still seem smart?

Just listen to Tim Keller. In virtually every message, Keller references a book he’s read or a thinker he’s borrowing from. He does this regularly and generously.

And guess what? Keller’s one of the sharpest thinkers alive today. Also one of the smartest.

Quoting other leaders doesn’t make you seem dumb. It actually makes you look smart.

It’s evidence you’ve read more than a few tweets, and that you’ve dug deep into the heart of history or current events. It’s a sign you’re not lazy.

Ripping people off is lazy. Learning from other authors and thinkers isn’t.

2. You lie

Lying is an integrity issue.

People assume when a speaker, artist or writer shares something, it’s their take on an issue.

I know of several pastors who have been fired by their board for stealing sermons they claimed were their own.

One literally downloaded another pastor’s messages every week and preached them verbatim. Another borrowed different sermons from different sources but never attributed them.

Their boards fired them. Bravo, boards.

If you steal money, you get fired. If you steal ideas, maybe you should be fired too.

3. You stop growing

Of all the leaders and communicators who have their ideas ripped off, Andy Stanley is likely top of the list. He’s one of the most quoted leaders alive today in the Western church, and for good reason. He’s brilliant.

I had a chance to talk with Andy on my Leadership Podcast and I asked him about how he felt about others ‘stealing’ his material and ideas. I loved his answer (you can listen to the episode here or on iTunes—Episode 1).

Andy said—so accurately—that preachers who preach other people’s messages forfeit the growth that comes with preparing a message from scratch. They miss the angst, the frustration and the tremendous reward that comes from wrestling down ideas until they come out in a powerful and helpful way.

Andy’s so right. Preachers, when you start stealing, you stop growing.

You also lose your own voice. If you’re like me, you may not be the biggest fan of your own voice, but it’s a voice God gave you and that God loves.

Further, if you’re simply a copycat, my suspicion is a younger audience will eventually tune you out. Why? Because Millennials can smell a lack of authenticity a mile away.

You may not be quite as clever or articulate as your favourite preacher, but you’re real. And real resonates.

But wait, you say, can’t you buy Andy’s sermons so you can reteach them at your church? Can’t you download Craig Groeschel’s messages and reteach them at your church? Both legally?

Yes, you can.

There can be strategic purposes for doing so. But when you do, give credit. Don’t lose the edge you gain by wrestling through your own ideas, your own reading of God’s word, and finding your own voice on a regular basis.

4. You lose touch with God

When you plagiarize, you lose touch with God in at least two significant ways.

First, the sins of lying and stealing are themselves a barrier. Confession stands between you and God.

Second, stealing ideas required zero reliance on the Holy Spirit for inspiration, direction, courage or insights.

Ironically, in trying to make your content better, you’ve made it worse. You’ve robbed it of its true power. The real power in preaching comes not from our words, but from what God does with our words.

Do the hard work. You and everyone around you will be better for it.

5. It creeps into other areas of your life

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s generally true that when you compromise in one area of your life, it doesn’t take much to start compromising in other areas.

Sin is like a weed: It grows fast and you never have to water it.

The best way to tackle sin is to pull it out by its root before it creeps into other areas of your life.

So what do I do?

What should you do in a hyper-connected era when you and I are exposed to more ideas in a day than our grandparents were in a month or year?

First, use other peoples ideas generously. Just give credit where credit is due. Quote. Attribute. Link back.

That covers most of us.

But what about those preachers who realize they’re guilty of knowingly stealing entire messages or lines of thinking and passing it off as theirs..and no one has confronted them on it (yet)?

I would strongly encourage anyone in this category to come clean. Talk to your board. Explain what’s been happening, and tell them you want to stop. See a counselor if you need to (there’s something inside that drove you there in the first place), and start writing fresh.

Want to develop as a preacher?

Here are some free resources you can use to become a better communicator. I share the process I use for preparing messages in this 5 part blog series.

I have also learned so much about message preparation, delivery and communication best practices from Preaching Rocket (affiliate link).

Preaching Rocket can help you get started preaching from scratch. Or, even if you’ve been at communication for years like I have, it can help you grow.

You can sign up for a 7 day free Preaching Rocket trial here.

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on us as communicators? What’s been your experience?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

insights on burnout

A Decade Later: My Top 10 Insights On Burnout

Burnout is almost an epidemic among church leaders today, and it’s increasingly common among business leaders as well.

Even young leaders are burning out. No longer is burnout an “I’ve been at this too long” kind of phenomenon.

So what happens if you burnout?

Can you come back?

Can you lead again?

Can you thrive again?

Is there hope?

10 years ago this summer, I burnt out.

It was the first time my fatigue pushed me over a cliff and left me unable to get back. It was more than physical exhaustion…it was emotional exhaustion. I had led for 12 years, but clearly, I had not processed my leadership properly. My first decade in leadership pushed me past the brink of burnout.

If you want more about my story, I write about the descent into burnout in this post and about my recovery here.

In addition, Perry Noble and I talk about burnout on Episode 2 of my leadership podcast (Perry’s story is fascinating).  Perry and I also put together some free resources to help leaders going through burnout.

Personally, I’ll never forget the depth of the despair.

And yet, a full decade later, I have never felt better, never felt more alive, and never been more productive in my life.

Here are 10 ways my burnout changed the way I lead, and 10 insights that can help any leader lead better (whether or not you’ve burnt out).

burnout in leadership1. Limits exist for a reason

As a young leader, it’s so easy to think limits don’t apply to you. In some ways they don’t.

Until they do.

People kept telling me I would burn out.

I thought I was invincible. I was so wrong.

I have a much greater respect for God-given limits: limits for how much I can do, what I should be involved in, and even how much sleep I need.

I’ve discovered that when I respect limits, I ironically get far more accomplished. The desire to burn through all limits many leaders feel, is, in the end, counterproductive.

2. God is still present, even when he feels absent

It’s hard to feel God’s presence when you’ve hit bottom.

There were months where I simply went through the motions—praying, reading my bible and following God as best as I could, even though I felt nothing.

There were moments in which I felt there was no way God could be present because clearly I had failed him, or I wouldn’t be feeling the way I did.

But that simply isn’t true.

God was very present when I was burning out. In fact, he was doing some deep work in me: prodding, shaping and refining who I was. You could even argue he was preparing me for what was ahead.

Did it have to be as painful as it was? Of course not. Had I listened earlier and heeded the warning signs, I probably wouldn’t have burned out.

But God is sovereign, and his faithfulness doesn’t depend on me.

God is still present…even when he feels absent.

3. Your unresolved past will sink your future

Unprocessed ‘issues’ are deadly.

My wife had urged me to go to counselling for a few years before I actually went. I was too proud to go. I sent people to counselling. I didn’t go to counselling.

How stupid.

She saw issues I couldn’t see. Others saw issues I couldn’t see. I had issues…things that were driving me to hurt others unintentionally.

The truth is we all struggle with unresolved issues. The sooner you deal with them, the better everyone around you is.

Your unresolved past will sink your future, unless you deal with it.

4. Grieve your losses

A mentor once told me that ministry is a series of ungrieved losses. He was right.

Think about how much loss is involved in leadership. Someone leaves your church. A staff member quits. A decision doesn’t go your way. You lose a friend.

Many leaders pretend it doesn’t hurt when the reality is it does.

Worse than that, we don’t know what to do with our losses. So we just go back to work.

For years when I read the scriptural stories of how people grieved, I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with these people? Why did they take 40 days to grieve the death of Moses? Couldn’t they just get back to work?”

Little did I realize that taking the time to grieve your losses is one of the healthiest things you can do.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in August 2006 crying. It’s like all the losses I ignored for decades couldn’t stay inside anymore. And once they left…I found closure, even healing.

Now, I pay much more attention to feelings of loss. I pray about them. I process them. Occasionally I do shed tears over the deeper ones. And then I move on.

So much healthier.

5. If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far

The #1 question I had in the middle of my burnout is will this ever end? 

It took me three months to start functioning semi-normally again. Within a year, I was at 80%. But it took a full 5 years to be at 100% of normal, which wasn’t the old normal, but a new normal (the old normal would have landed me back in the ditch again).

I realized God was doing some soul surgery in me that went very deep. I believe he wanted to get to the root of some heart issues that would have held me back from doing what he wants to accomplish with my life.

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to encourage other leaders going through burnout, spending some time to pray and talk with them, sometimes at length.

The question they always ask is this: when will this be over? All of us A-types want burnout over quickly.

My standard answer these days is “don’t rush it and don’t delay it. Let it take as long as it takes.”

Why?

There’s a promise underneath the pain. If God is doing surgery, it’s because he wants to bring healing.

It’s also a sign of his love. If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far.

6. Your heart will heal and you will trust again

Your heart gets mangled in leadership because:

You trusted people who betrayed that trust.

You hoped only to have your hopes dashed.

You believed only to discover what you were hoping for never happened.

That’s the natural stuff of leadership, but in the process, your naiveté and innocence are lost.

As a result, it’s hard not to grow cynical. It’s hard not to let your heart grow hard.

How do you thrive long term when leadership can be disappointing?

For me, it’s a combination of realism and optimism. Yep, it can be hard. Yes, there will be disappointments. But despite that, I will believe again. I will hope again. I will trust again.

Here’s something I’ve discovered: leaders who thrive see life for what it really is but keep their hearts fully engaged.

7. Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience

When you’re burnt out, your emotions stop working properly. You sometimes feel nothing. Or you feel a deep despair. And at other times, you feel emotions but they are not proportionate to what is going on around you or what you should be feeling.

I think a lot of leaders simply quit because their emotions have stopped working.

What I’ve learned is that obedience is greater than my emotions.

I stayed in ministry because I believe God had not released me from my calling. So I just obeyed.

The amazing thing is, eventually, your emotions catch up to your obedience. As you get healthier, the emotions begin to work the way they should. Sometimes they work better than they ever have.

8. Managing your energy is more important than managing your time

Prior to my burnout, I worked on time management.

Since I burned out, I still work hard on optimal time management, but I’ve discovered a much better approach: energy management.

Your energy waxes and wanes throughout the day. Rather than fight that, I’ve learned to cooperate with it. I’ve discovered that there are probably 3-5 hours a day when I’m at my best (for me, that’s usually in the morning).

I’ve moved all my most important work to those hours when I’m at my best.

Doing what you’re best at when you’re at your best unlocks a world of potential many leaders miss.

I write more on how to manage your energy here.

9. Sleep is a leader’s secret weapon

Exhaustion was a major reason I burned out. Not the only reason, but a major reason.

Now, I guard my sleep zealously, when I’m at home or on the road. I’ve embraced naps. And I watch my fatigue levels like a hawk.

I’ve come to realize that most of us are like our phones. You start off in the morning with 100% charge and at various points in the day, you need to be plugged back in.

A quick nap at lunch can recharge me for a few hours. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night has become essential for me to perform at my best at work and at home.

If you want more, I wrote a blog post on why sleep is a leader’s secret weapon.

10. Your best days may actually be ahead of you, not behind you

Here’s some hope for anyone struggling with burnout.

When I was burning out, I was mostly convinced my best days were behind me. With a decade’s distance from my burnout, I can see that wasn’t true in the least.

I came back from burnout (again, here are the 12 keys that helped me), and I’ve accomplished more in the last 10 years than I ever imagined was possible.

I planted a church that has grown into the largest church I’ve ever been a part of.

People told me all through my 30s that I should write a book. I never did. In the last 6 years, I’ve written three.

My blog has grown to millions of readers a year, I launched a weekly leadership podcast, and I’ve had the chance to speak all over the world.

If you had told me God would open up doors like this when I was in the depth of my burnout, I would never have believed it.

I’m not sure I could have handled what God brought my way before I burned out. There were things he needed to do inside me before he did things through me. I see that clearly now.

The point is simply this…if you’re burning out, keep moving through it. Maybe your best days are ahead of you, not behind you.

Want More?

I included a full chapter on personal health and team health in my new book, Lasting Impact. You can pick up a copy for you and your team here.

In addition, listen in on my interview with Perry Noble, Lead Pastor of NewSpring Church who burned out while leading a church that reaches tens of thousands of people. Perry tells you not only why he burned out, but how he came back.

If you prefer, you can listen to the podcast on your phone or another device by subscribing here. Once you’ve subscribed, just look for Episode 2, which is my interview with Perry.

Additionally, don’t miss the free resource page Perry and I put together to help leaders who are burning out. You can access it here for free.

You can subscribe to my podcast for free here on iTunesStitcher or Tune In Radio.

Those are my top 10 insights on burnout a decade later.

What’s helped you move through your toughest seasons? What are your top insights?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

age of terror

Thoughts on How to Be the Church in An Age of Terror

Like me, you hope and pray that tragedies like the one we just witnessed in Orlando will stop and go away…forever.

You wish you could wake up in a world in which children could go to school, friends could go to movies, athletes could run marathons, music lovers could go to concerts and people could go to night clubs and churches without the fear of violence.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be ready to happen any time soon.

In an era of randomized terror, it’s extremely difficult to protect ourselves from acts of violence in shopping malls, schools, churches or movie theatres…it is infecting and affecting our ordinary, every day life.

Which is exactly what it’s designed to do. And hence, it’s terror.

In many ways, terror and evil have been part of the fabric of human life forever. My father was born into a world in which Nazi soldiers regularly marched feet away from his living room window while his older brothers hid in the hayloft. Terror is no stranger to previous generations or present generations in many parts of the world.

But living in this emerging reality in the West is new to most of us. And we are left, emotions swinging and raging, wondering how to respond.  Wishing it would go away. Even when in all likelihood, it won’t.

And so we pray, even when we are not sure what to pray or how to pray and often when our prayers consist more of tears, fear and desperation than they do of words. We are heartbroken. And we suspect our hearts will be broken again….soon.

How do we respond as Christians? As church leaders? As pastors and neighbours? As parents? As citizens?

Clearly, there is no single response that can adequately address the complexity or dark depth of what’s happening. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Nor is there an election result that can fix this once and for all.

But there are some reflections which I hope and pray can be helpful for Christians and church leaders. What you do is important. And how you respond, in the small and the large things, matters so much.

Here are a few things that have been circulating through my heart and mind as the tragedy in Orlando hits home.

age of terror

1. What the church is doing is more important, not less important

Doubtless the church is in an era of deep change.

Given the rise of terror and violence in the West, the days of playing church or simply going to church are drawing to a close.

This is the time to be the church, because what Christians have to offer is a radically different ethic and alternative to hatred and violence. The Gospel is a needed ethic in our culture, and it’s being lost in the noise.

You can debate parts of the scripture all you want, but one thing that is undeniable is that Jesus said his followers would be known by their love.

This, more than anything, is what Christians need to be known for.

Families need this love. Victims need this love. Perpetrators need this love. Children need this love.

The Gospel moves us to love when all that is left is hate.

So what you’re doing this Sunday, not just in response to what happened but in advance of what might happen next, is so important.

Our culture needs the love found in Jesus more than ever. What you’re doing next weekend matters more than you realize.

As the Gospel spreads from person to person, life to life, community to community, nation to nation, we are transformed.

Preach the love of Christ like you were changing the world. Because you are.

2. Confession and humility are more important than ever

Confession and humility are increasingly rare in the West. And in the church. And yet they are two characteristics of Christianity that run to the core of our faith.

The opposite of confession is blame…and that’s an instinctive reaction most of us have. Lack of humility pushes people (and nations) into stand-offs that deepen the divide and escalate the ruin.

The truth is, other religions aren’t the only religions that have spoken hate. Christians have spoken hate as well. We need to repent.

We are perfectly capable of hating and killing each other without intervention from foreign groups that hate the West. And sometimes, we do.

We need to pray, and repent, and carry deep inside of us the knowledge that we too are broken. We too need a Saviour. We too need grace. We too are forgiven.

That posture can’t change everything, but it will change more than you think. It can deeply alter the dynamic and dialogue at a micro-level. When the micro-dialogue and the micro-dynamics changes, it is only a matter of time until the macro changes.

3. Faith is a dividing line that ultimately can become a uniting line

The reality, of course, is that if you’re a Christian, there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only an ‘us’ and ‘us.’

The early church realized that when Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women and every ethnic nation imaginable came together under Christ. It was tremendously radical then. It will be just as radical now.

We live in an age where faith is increasingly seen as divisive and extreme. More and more people feel that way about Christianity as well, as David Kinnaman and I discuss in Episode 82 of my leadership podcast (you can listen here).

Yet Christianity, which man sees as divisive, is ultimately unifying because it ultimately unites radically different people groups under the love of God that is in Jesus Christ.

4. The only ethic that will ever work is the ethic of love

A generation ago, Martin Luther King Jr. faced a situation that had some parallels. The civil rights movement was hardly yet a movement as the young black preacher began his ministry. The controversy over busing had just begun in Alabama.

One night when King was preaching, someone threw a bomb inside the house where he wife and infant daughter were inside. His family was unharmed, but his front window had been blown out and there was a huge hole in his porch.

As he rushed home, a crowd of several hundred blacks had gathered as had the mayor and the police.

As Charles Duhigg tells the story (in his book, The Power of Habit), someone shoved a cop, a bottle flew through the air and a police officer waved his baton. All the ingredients for a full riot were there. The tension had been building for weeks. Well, actually, for centuries.

King stood up on his porch and told the crowd “Don’t do anything panicky….He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Then, as he got everyone’s attention, King spoke these words:

“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in word that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’…We must meet hate with love.”

As Duhigg notes, this was a turning point for the civil rights movement. People put down their fists and their weapons. When hate became instead, an embrace, it became a very difficult force to stop.

The only ethic that will ultimately work against hate is love. And no one should be more loving than those forgiven in Christ.

It would be wise to study King and the civil rights movement again in detail to see not just results, but strategy. The strategy of love appears to lose at first, but ultimately wins.

5. Christians lay down their lives in the face of evil

Should Christians take life? There is little point on this blog to getting into long debate about gun control or state violence.

I would assume that only a few of us who read this are actually legislators, and that none of us who read this have ever sat in the Oval Office or at 24 Sussex Drive to receive a briefing as the leader of a nation. We cannot understand the complexities of leadership or government from the seats in which we sit. Or at least I can’t.

But I do have to figure out my personal response. So do you. So does anyone who identifies themselves as Christians.

Here’s what I know.

That when Jesus himself was hated enough to be unjustly tortured and killed, he willingly gave his life. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even enter a defence at his trail.

In fact, he did something more profound than defending himself, he forgave his torturers.

Actually, it went deeper than that. The very act his captors used to kill Jesus is the act Jesus would later use to extend to them forgiveness and salvation.

Meeting Jesus, this crucified Saviour, would later lead Saul to move from killing Christians out of hatred to planting churches across the known world.

Ultimately, Paul gave his life for the sake of the Gospel.

The ultimate Christian response to hatred is not to take someone’s life for hating you, it’s to lay down your life for their sake.

You can kill the body. But you cannot kill love. You cannot kill forgiveness. You cannot kill grace.

It is to those things we must cling in these days.

6. External regulations cannot trump internal values

Can you legislate away terror? Not really.

I’m all in favour of better laws, smarter laws, and doing all we can to make sure evil does not win.

But laws alone cannot defeat evil. Laws, in fact, can barely contain it.

Ultimately the problems we are facing are not issues of law, they are issues of the heart.

Changed laws do not change hearts.

What changes hearts? The Gospel. Love. Christ.

When a heart is transformed, its value system is transformed. Forgiveness dissolves anger. Love dissolves hate.

As a result, a person’s value system changes. This is where the hope is. This is where the key to the future lies.

Why? Because internally-owned values trump externally-imposed rules every time.

In a community where love has won, laws are barely needed. In a community where hate lives, laws do almost no good.

Paul knew this.

So how does that love gain a foothold in a culture threatened with hate?

The way people will discover that love is when they meet a Christian who behaves like an actual Christian.

And that means that this begins with you and with me.

You may have never met a terrorist. You may not have even know many Muslims.

But the truth is there are people you don’t like, and probably a few that you hate. Start there.

Forgive someone you actually know.

And then when it comes to adding your voice to the public dialogue on social media or in private conversations, don’t fuel hate to people groups and other religions…instead, extend love.

The most radical thing you can do today is to extend love in the face of hate.

It will require all you have. In fact, you will not be able to do it. You may actually need a Saviour to help.

Which is exactly the point.

So go be the church…

So go be the church…the real church. The authentic church. The church Jesus had in mind.

Repent. Confess. Humble yourself. Forgive. Love. Hope. Trust.

Turn to Christ for the strength you don’t have. He has it.

Church…we may actually have the things that can change the world.

What you’re doing this week matters more than ever.

heart is growing hard

7 Warning Signs Your Heart is Growing Hard in Leadership

If you’re like me, the longer you serve in leadership, the more intentional you have to become at keeping your heart open and fully alive.

Hardness of heart is a condition that people on the wrong side of God and people develop. Biblically, Pharaoh suffered from it. Israel did on occasion. And the Pharisees specialized in it.

Chances are, the boss you couldn’t stand suffered from it as well.

Not exactly great company if you ask me.

So it’s a little bit vulnerable to admit you struggle with it. But I do. I’m on constant guard about keeping my heart open and alive.

One of the greatest casualties in leadership is the human heart. So many leaders see their hearts grow hard over time. How does it happen?

Well, like a physician or paramedic who sees illness or tragedy every day, you develop a way of dealing with the pain. And some of that’s healthy.

But if you don’t monitor things carefully, you can move into full seasons where you don’t feel much of anything at all. Your heart can grow hard.

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How do you know you’re there, or heading there?

Here are 7 early warning signs:

1. You don’t really celebrate and you don’t really cry 

A hard heart is flat heart. Not much gets in.

Joy doesn’t. Sadness doesn’t.

And while you don’t want to be unstable or imbalanced, it’s actually normal and healthy to feel the ups and downs of life and leadership.

2. You fake your emotions

Truthfully, we’ve all done this in seasons. And sometimes you need to.

When you’re the leader, you ‘have’ to lead in the public eye, and sometimes that means smiling when you’re not happy, showing empathy when you don’t feel it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a lie nor is it inauthentic if it only happens once in a while. When that happens occasionally, you’re simply being a leader, not a liar.

But when faking your emotions become a pattern, it’s a sign something is deeply wrong. And that kind of faking can’t last if you want to lead and live well.

Fake your emotions enough times and your leadership will stop resonating with the people you lead. Why? Because you’ve stopped becoming an authentic leader. And authenticity is a non-negotiatable leadership quality, especially in our culture.

3. You say “I don’t care” a lot

Maybe this is more personal than universal, but a sure sign my heart is in trouble is when I hear myself saying “I don’t care” repeatedly.

If someone’s upset, I say I don’t care.

If someone disappoints me, I say I don’t care.

If something doesn’t work out the way I hoped, I say I don’t care.

If my actions are going to hurt someone, I say I don’t care.

To me, this is a huge warning sign that there’s a problem, because I should care. Even if I can’t change the outcome, I should care.

If you really don’t care about the people around you, eventually they’ll stop caring about you.

 

4. So much of what’s supposed to be meaningful feels mechanical

Another sure sign of a hard heart is that you feel like a robot.

What’s supposed to be meaningful has become mechanical. You’re doing your job. You’re getting things done, but it’s just mechanical.

From your personal friendships to your family to work, the feeling’s gone.

5. Passion is hard to come by

For anything.

Your heart and your passion level are deeply connected. Sometimes you’ll try to rekindle your passion when what you really need to do is go deeper, and fix your heart.

6. You no longer believe the best about people 

You know you’re in danger when you meet someone for the first time and you’re thinking about what’s going to go wrong, not what’s going to go right.

And the stakes are high when you stop believing the best and assuming the worst.

Why?

Leaders who stop believing the best about people stop receiving the best from people.

7. You’re growing cynical

Hard-heartedness and cynicism go hand in hand.

Cynicism is simply the death of optimism. And it happens slowly over time.

If you find yourself growing cynical, how do you battle back? Easy…become curious.

Ever notice the cynical are never curious and the curious are never cynical?

I wrote more about cynicism and curiosity here.

So How Does It Happen?

How does your heart grow hard? Here are a few ways I’ve seen hardness of heart get triggered in me:

1. You see the patterns, and forget the people

In my first few years in ministry, all I saw were people. Then I realized people behaved certain ways.

Actually, people behave in certain predictable ways.

Unchecked, that can lead to cynicism when you realize the people who say they want to change (and at first you believe them), don’t change. If you become fixated on the patterns of human behaviour, not the people beneath them, your heart will grow hard.

Patterns are discouraging. People aren’t.

2. You over-protect a broken heart 

People promise and don’t deliver. Your hopes were bigger than what happened. You trusted someone and your trust was misplaced.

Really, that’s just life. It happens to everyone. But how you respond is so critical. It’s easy to shield yourself from people. It’s easy to stop trusting, stop loving, stop believing. But that would be a mistake. It kills your heart.

3. You stop looking for what’s good in people and situations

Because life has its disappointments, and people are still people even after they become Christians (it’s amazing how that happens), it’s easy to focus on personal and organization shortcomings.

If you keep that up, it can be all you focus on. Keep looking for flickers of light. Your job as a leader is to spot the hope in any situation anyway, to find a way when it looks like there’s no way. So keep looking.

4. You accept a harder heart as a new normal

A hardened heart isn’t inevitable, but it does take intentional effort to guard against one. When you feel your heart becoming hard, you need to take action and fight against it.

All that said, I’ve also discovered this: if you work at it, your heart can stay supple.

When you pick away at the callous, something wonderful God created still beats underneath. And you enter a new season of life wiser, but very much fully alive.

Some Help

If you want more, I encourage you to listen in to a conversation with Perry Noble, in which he and I talk about burnout (it’s Episode 2 of my Leadership Podcast on iTunes) A hard heart can be a sign that you’re burning out. Perry and I talk about the burnout we both experience, and we put a free resource page together to help.

I also wrote about building healthy teams in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow. You can learn more about the book or get a copy here.

How’s your heart? Is this something you have to struggle with too?

If you had to pick one thing that hardens your heart, what would it be?

battle in your head

How to Win the Battle In Your Head

Of all the challenges you face as a leader, one of the most intense is knowing how to win the battle that goes on in your head.

Leadership is above all a mental (and therefore spiritual) game.

You can have all the hard skill sets in the world—a fantastic education, tremendous insight, wisdom, the ability to rally a team, to build things and to get things done—but if you don’t know how to deal with the voices in your head, you can go down in defeat.

Sometimes you don’t need anyone to take you out of leadership. You’re perfectly capable of doing it yourself, just by listening to the voices in your head.

You know what I mean, the voices that say:

You’re not up for this.

What’s the point?

You’re not doing a great job.

Just do something else with your life…it will be easier.

This doesn’t really matter.

Don’t bother.

Most of us have a series of messages (like these) that play back over and over again in our mind, like a mixtape. Yours may be similar or a bit different, but they’re there. 

Sadly, too many of the voices in your head try to defeat what God wants to accomplish in you and through you.

Win the battle in your head, and you can win the battle in leadership. Lose it, and you can lose everything.

So how do you ultimately win? Here are 6 things that have helped me as a leader.

win the battle in your head

1. Win the battle by calling an audible

The problem most of us experience with the battle in our heads is that it’s been going on for so long, we hear the negative voices as a kind of white noise.

When I’m struggling with thoughts in my head that aren’t helpful and can’t get clarity, I call an audible. I name (sometimes out loud) the reality that all the actual opposition I’m facing is in my head. 

Personally, I find by saying something as simple as “wait…this is ALL IN MY HEAD” can be tremendously clarifying.

It’s not real…not yet. I’m just thinking it.

And—remember this—the stuff that’s in your head is only as real as you let it become.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s a great starting point.

2. Stop focusing on yourself

I often find when I’m losing the battle in my head that  I’m focusing on myself, not on the mission.

Self-focus is helpful when it’s tied to self-awareness, and you’re confessing, changing, building or growing as a leader. Beyond that, it’s increasingly less productive.

Self-focus beyond self-awareness as a leader becomes selfish.

So ask yourself: is my self-focus helping me or hurting me? Am I growing as a leader, or am I just finding a new rut to get stuck in?

If your self-focus is not productive, drop it. Because selfishness is never productive in leadership.

You know this to be true: the selfish leader is rarely self-aware, and the self-aware leader is rarely selfish.

3. Win the battle and find a bigger challenge

The voices that play in my head get worse when I’m bored…when there’s no challenge that’s dominating my time and attention.

Sometimes the fact that the voices are present and there’s a malaise is evidence to me it’s time for a bigger challenge.

That doesn’t mean quitting your job or looking for something new. It just means upsizing the scale and importance of your current mission.

Fortunately for church leaders, we have the biggest mission on planet Earth. Nothing could be more exciting, challenging or worthy of our lives.

If you’re not excited about the mission of the church, you don’t understand the mission.

Refocusing on the mission of the church is a very effective way of silencing the negative voices in your head.

4. Take a break and come back fresh

Occasionally, the problem isn’t that you’re not working hard enough, it’s that you’re working too hard. You’ve gotten lost in the long drone of day-to-day leadership.

Instead of staring at a wall and letting the dialogue in your head ramp up to another level, take a break and do something not related to your job.

Go for a run. Hop on your bike. Take a hike (literally). Watch a movie. Game a little. Cut your lawn. Have dinner with a friend and DON’T talk about work.

Take a nap or go to bed an hour early (going to bed earlier is almost always more energizing than sleeping in).

The mental distractions these activities provide give us a break from the long drone of leadership.

Every leader needs a break from the long drone of leadership. So take one today.

5. Lean into your energy

You get an equal amount of energy every day, but you never bring the same amount of energy to each hour.

You likely have a 3-5 hour window every day where you’re truly at your best. Your energy is high. Your mind is sharp, and your enthusiasm runs deep.

The problem is that often, you squander that energy on unproductive things, like a meeting that went too long, or email that made your eyeballs numb, or small tasks that could have been saved for later.

The key to maximum effectiveness as a leader is this: do what you’re best at when you’re at your best. That’s what top performing leaders do (here are 12 other traits of top performing leaders).

If your key strength is communication, do your writing or thinking in that 3-5 hour window. Save the administration for later when your energy is lower.

Or if your key work is building into your best people, get them in a room when your energy is at its best.

For me, my best hours are between 5-10 a.m. I try to do my most important work in that window.

Discover your peak hours by monitoring your energy level and then doing what you’re best at… when you’re at your best. (I wrote more about how to do that here.)

6. Pray and have people pray for you

Prayer is so important to Christian leadership, but it’s so often neglected.

I admit, I would lean toward participating in a strategy meeting over a prayer meeting any day, but that’s also a critical mistake. If we’re being 100% dead honest, you might lean in the same direction (and if you don’t—great).

Praying about the battle in your head is a necessary and powerful step every leader can take. And it should be the first step.

Also, when the battle wages on, it’s a good idea to have other people pray for you.

When I entered a period of burnout a decade ago, the prayers of close friends and family were instrumental in helping me see the light of day again.

Prayer fixes my mind on Christ and lifts me above the problems I’m facing at any given moment.

Here’s what I’m learning as a leader: fixing your mind on Christ fixes your mind.

What About You?

What voices do you hear in your head that want to take you off-mission and out of the game?

How do you battle them…and win?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

reach millennials

A Different Take on Reaching Millennials

One of the questions almost every church leader I know is asking is “How do we reach Millennials?”—that demographic of young adults now in their late teens to mid-thirties.

It’s a great question.

One of the primary missions of every generation of church leaders is to hand the faith and the church over to the next generation. Practically speaking, churches that fail to reach young adults will struggle far more a decade from now than churches that don’t.

Often the conversation goes quickly to what you need to do in the church to reach the next generation.

But is that actually the right question to ask?

The penny dropped for me recently in (yet another) conversation I had with young adults about the church and the future.

Maybe Millennials are asking a very different question.

And the question they’re asking is good news for almost every church leader, because it’s not only about what you do, how many resources you have, or even your model of ministry. It’s bigger than that.

In fact, Millennials might be looking for something bigger than all of that. The good news? It’s something almost every church leader can offer regardless of church size, budget or staffing.

reaching millennials

The Dinner Party Where No One Agreed…Until

I had a free ranging dinner conversation recently with 8 young adult church leaders (ranging in age from the mid-twenties to early thirties) and I simply asked them, “If you could design a church for your generation, what would it look like?”

The conversation actually turned out quite similar to a number of conversations I’ve had with young church leaders. No one actually agreed with each other. 

One young leader thought messages should be 20 minutes long. Others thought messages should be ‘deep’ and biblical and length wasn’t that important.

When I drilled down, no one could really agree on what deep or biblical meant.

Some thought worship should be longer while others thought this could be an impediment to inviting their friends.

When it came to community groups or outreach, there were mixed opinions on what to do.

After 45 minutes, no real consensus emerged.

This is quite typical among the many conversations I’ve had with churched and unchurched Millennials.

I’d preached at their church earlier that day and so I asked them for some honest no-holds-barred feedback. They told me the message really resonated, so I pushed deeper (come on, you can tell me the truth) and asked them why. My message was more like 40 minutes, after all (not 20) and I’m old enough to be the dad of some of the people around the table. I was really anxious for their feedback.

“Well”, someone ventured, “you were authentic. You told stories. There was nothing fake about what you said.”

“And I did reference Greek once,” I replied. We all laughed because clearly this meant my teaching was ‘deep.’

Then they started talking about what they valued. Things like integrity, transparency, honesty, grace and truth.

And this is when (finally), they all agreed.

That’s also when things really came together in my mind, and resonated with what we’re learning from Millennials where I serve at Connexus, and what I’ve seen elsewhere: when it comes to reaching Millennials, maybe the question we need to ask isn’t ‘what do we need to do?’ as much as ‘who do we need to be?’

Bottom line? Millennials are asking church leaders who they are…  far more than they’re asking what they’ll do.

So what are the implications for all of us who lead churches?

1. Millennials Think Character Matters Most

Character will determine effectiveness in reaching Millennials far more than competency does.

This is both great news and frightening news.

The good news? An authentic experience in a church with B+ worship experience beats a hollow experience in a church with A+ programming.

That’s good news to every church that doesn’t have the expertise, budget or staff to pull off the experience larger churches offer.

But the frightening part is there’s a high-powered magnifying glass aimed at the character of every church leader, and especially the senior leaders.

So how well is your church doing? Here’s a post that can help determine the kind of people Millennials often want to hang around (and a bit of a diagnostic test for your church).

2. Budget Matters Less

The really good news is that things like integrity, authenticity and a deep sense of mission cost nothing financially.  So they are accessible to everyone.

Sure, they will cost you deeply in terms of your personal walk. They will cause you to be brutally honest, to repent, to change, to grow and to trust God at whole new levels, but the cost of discipleship is always worth paying.

But if you live in a space where you think “we can’t reach the next generation because we have no money,” think again.

In fact, here’s a list of other church growth strategies that are absolutely free.

3. Relationships Count to Millennials

What do young adults want?

Your time. Your heart. Your attention. And a chance to actually connect with people.

Churches that elevate community will do better with Millennials than churches that don’t.

So prioritize chances to serve, connect and grow together. A great small group strategy and serving strategy can help so much with this.

Community doesn’t mean that everyone has to know everyone (a myth by which many small churches live and die). But it does mean everyone needs to know someone.

The importance of community is something both Orange and Kara Powell believe is critical to reaching the next generation. I agree. Kara’s new book, Growing Young, which comes out this fall (which I’ve had the privilege of pre-reading) highlights this even more.

Relationship is something every church can be great at.

4. Maybe this is Model Neutral

Every church has a model of ministry. And as we’ve discussed many times on this blog, churches that love their model more than their mission will die.

But does that mean you can only have ONE model (approach) to church that works? Well, no, it doesn’t. Because if Millennials truly appreciate the values of leaders and their faith community more than other things, character can be present in a wide variety of approaches to ministry.

Geoff Surratt is doing some fascinating research on the kinds of churches Millennials love to attend, and he’s discovering that many of the churches doing a great job reaching young adults are very diverse in nature. You can listen to my conversation with Geoff about that on Episode 40 of my Leadership Podcast.

I also shared some of the surprises I found in churches that are absolutely crushing it with young adults in this post.

Findings like this give hope to us all.

5. This is No Excuse to Be Bad At What You Do

All that said, this is in no way an excuse to be bad at what you do.

It’s not a licence for irrelevance, laziness or a justification for the status quo.

This is, after all, a generation that has been marketed to more than any generation in human history. They can smell cheese and incompetence a mile away.

But they can also smell fake a mile away. Being real matters more than doing. But doing still matters.

So continue to do the best you can with what you have. Make the changes you feel called to make, regardless of your church size, budget, setting or denomination.

Continue to make your ministry better, but work harder on your character than you do on your competency.

What Do You Think?

What are you seeing as you interact with young adults?

Or if you’re a Millennial, what are you experiencing?

Contribute to the conversation by scrolling down and leaving a comment.

insecurity as a leader

Some Simple Practices That Will Get You Over Your Insecurity as a Leader

So you struggle with insecurity as a leader. Join the club.

It’s not fun to struggle with insecurity, but it is great that you see it. Self-awareness helps so much in leadership.

In my last post, I outlined 5 signs of insecurity in leadership.

So, beyond recognizing your problem, how do you overcome your insecurity?

As I’ve wrestled this issue down in my life, I’ve made several key transitions that have helped significantly. They’re easy to understand but difficult to do. The key is to simply do them again and again.

When you do these things, your insecurities begin to dissipate. Good habits displace bad impulses.

Here are five changes that can help you deal with underlying insecurity.

insecurities

1. Be generous with your praise

This might sound trivial, but it’s not. Insecure people are often jealous people.

One of the best ways to combat jealousy is to privately and publicly commend and compliment others. Especially if you don’t feel like it.

If you’re afraid of building others up because you think it might diminish you in some way, that’s the perfect time to do it. Don’t remain silent.

Don’t give them a back-handed compliment (“It’s about time he did something good!”) and don’t qualify the praise (“It was pretty good given her track record”).

Publicly celebrating the success of others will move you much closer to what Jesus was talking about when he commanded us to love enemies and people who persecute us.

Most of the people you hesitate to compliment aren’t close to being enemies.

So in those moments when others make a difference (there are many), smile and acknowledge it, privately and publicly. Be generous with your praise.

2. Recruit and promote people who are better than you

I had to wrestle this one down a number of years ago as we added staff and key volunteers. I had to hire people who were better than me at so many things. In fact, I’m only ‘best at’ a few things in our organization.

My goal in life is to give more of those things away.

Another way I had to deal with this head on is when we started Connexus Church as a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. That means when I’m not teaching, Andy Stanley is.

If you really want to wrestle down insecurity, just put the most gifted communicator around on the screen when you aren’t teaching.

It will quickly teach you to celebrate what others are amazing at, and experience contentment with the role you also play.

3. Give thanks for who you are instead of lamenting over who you aren’t

At the root of much insecurity are two beliefs.

  • That God somehow got it wrong when he created you.
  • That you need to compensate for this.

That’s why insecure people are jealous or resentful of others and why we somehow feel we need to ‘right’ the situation by withholding praise, refusing to hire or recruit better people because it might make us look bad, and trying to control things so they work out in our favour.

Why not start each day thanking God for how he created you?

Why not say “God, you have given me everything I need to accomplish what you’ve asked me to accomplish and you’ve given others exactly what they need to accomplish their mission”?

That shift will also help you relinquish your controlling tendencies.

Realizing God has given you all you need makes you both grateful and dependent.

4. Stop comparing yourself with others. Start learning from them

Constantly comparing yourself to others is a losing game no matter how you try to play it. You end up feeling inferior (wrong) or superior (sinful) to others every time you compare. It corrodes your heart.

So how to do you interact healthily with others? Learn from them. Plain and simple. You grow by being around other people, so grow.

What do they do well? What could you do differently? What are the charts and numbers telling you? How can you develop from what you’re learning?

5. Get ridiculously honest with yourself (and God)

I had a powerful moment in my journey a number of years ago. It was one of those moments where I wasn’t reading the scripture, the scripture was reading me.

This passage in James stopped me dead in my tracks. It described exactly what I was experiencing in that moment.

Instead of blowing it off and ignoring it, I admitted (to my shame) that it described me. I prayed about it.

The next day I went back to the same text, praying as I read through it again.

I didn’t leave those four verses until the ugly things they described relinquished their grip on my heart. It took over a week.

Every time I’ve read that text in the years that have passed, I stop and give thanks to God for what he dealt with inside of me in that season.

I’m so grateful. But you don’t get to that kind of breakthrough without ridiculous honesty about what’s really going on.

So level with yourself. And with God. Everyone else knows your weakness. So does God. Why not admit it?

We are masters of self-deception. Dead-honest confession stops that.

These five strategies have helped me. What’s helped you? What are you learning?

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can create a healthier leadership culture, I wrote about that in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

———

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the mainstream but in my view can still help leaders. — Carey

insecure leader

5 Signs You’re An Insecure Leader

Ever wonder if you’re an insecure leader?

There’s a bit of irony in that question. Insecure people by nature wonder about things like that. I know because part of my personal leadership journey over the years has been spent battling insecurity.

It’s the same for many of us. Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity. In my next post, I’ll share some strategies that can really help get past the struggle so many of us face.

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

Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you might be battling insecurity as a leader.

insecure leaer1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others

You and I 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. In fact, there’s just a lot of sin in comparison.

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

I’m a results-driven guy. I want to see this mission expand and I want to see things grow.

Some of that is good. And some of that can warp any sense of security you have.

You know you’re an insecure leader when your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, performance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews or what others say about you.

Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.

I do monitor all of these things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.

God’s opinion of me doesn’t equate 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.

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 inflict direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).

Insecure people always feel a need to be the most gifted person in the room. As a result, the number of gifted people in any room they’re in drops accordingly.

One 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.

Insecure people don’t need experts because they want to be the expert. Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.

Leaders who need to be the final word on everything end up leading not much more than themselves.

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.

How about you?  What have you noticed? Scroll down and leave a comment.

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can create a healthier leadership culture, I wrote about that in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.

———

I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the mainstream but in my view can still help leaders. — Carey