From Spiritual Growth

Carey and Toni Nieuwhof

20 Honest Insights on Making It To 25 Years in Marriage

This month, my wife Toni and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.

I love her more than I ever dreamed of.

And it’s also been a totally different experience than either of us thought it would be.

I love this picture of us leaving our wedding reception, because in many ways it show us stepping out into the world when we honestly had NO IDEA what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.

Carey and Toni Nieuwhof

I have no data on this, but I think leaders perhaps struggle in their marriages more than others do.

Anecdotally, at least, I hear from leader after leader who says it’s been tougher at home than they thought it would be. And Toni and I have had our share of struggles for sure.

If you’re looking for a post on marriage that outlines how couples should do 5 things that will make their marriage perfect, you need to read someone else’s blog.

The truth is, marriage is work. Hard work. But it’s wonderfully hard work.

Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, and more deep joy than we ever realized existed.

I love her more than I have ever loved anyone or anything (except Christ, of course).

Our love has grown richer and better over time, but we’ve also had a few seasons where we wondered whether love had vaporized. There were seasons where the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over.

So we stayed. And our emotions eventually caught up with our obedience.

Through it all, Christ has kept us together and brought us a more wonderfully fulfilling relationship than either of us knew was possible.

On the other side of deep pain is deep joy. You’ve just got to make it there.

So what’s the key?

Well, there’s no one key, but here are 20 honest insights about making it to 25 years in marriage.

Some are observations. Some are directives. Either way, I hope they help WHEREVER you are in your marriage.

1. Love is a decision, not an emotion

My dad always told me that love is an act of the will. He was right.

Culture says that love is an emotion. It’s something you feel, not something you do.

Culture couldn’t be more wrong.

True love is a decision…a decision to place someone else’s well being above yours. To stick through the tough times. To love when you don’t feel love.

God isn’t thrilled with you all the time, yet he loves you. It’s a decision, not an emotion.

2. Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience

There have been a few seasons in our 25 years where we stayed together simple because we were being obedient. (I’d say Toni had to exercise her obedience more than I did.)

So you stay when you feel like leaving. You stay when you feel like doing something irresponsible.

You just obey what you believe God has called you to do in the situation. I believe God has called me to stay married to one woman for life, and Toni believes God has called her to stay married to one man for life.

And in the process of being obedient, we both discovered something incredible: your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience.

Though the joy may have left for a few days, a few weeks, and once or twice, for a season, it came back. Deeper, richer and more abundant than we ever expected.

3. Don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions

So you can see I’ve learned not to trust my feelings, because like the rest of creation, my feelings were victims of the fall.

A quick lesson: don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions.

Sometimes we defied stereotypical Christian advice and went to bed angry. But at least we went to bed together. And reason usually returned with the dawn.

Thank goodness on those days when emotion clouded judgment we just decided not to decide.

There’s wisdom in that for life, not just for marriage.

4. Live your story…not someone else’s

You will be tempted to compare yourself to other couples and other ‘leadership’ couples you admire. That can be healthy. It can also be horrible.

Live your story.

I’ve heard famous preachers say they’ve never had a fight about money. I promise you we have.

You can feel terrible about that and think “what’s wrong with me?”, or you can bring that before God and work it out together.

One of my all time favourite Andy Stanley series is The Comparison Trap. If you struggle with ‘why aren’t we more like X?”, watch it.

5. Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook lie

Nobody’s life is as great as they make it out to be on Instagram.

If you’re comparing your real life to someone else’s posted life, you will implode.

Not much more to say about that. You know what I mean.

6. Don’t put pressure on your spouse that only God can bear

I heard this from Tim Keller a few years ago (do not have a source…sorry).

With the disappearance of God from more and more of our culture, people have lost a sense of the divine and the majestic.

Consequently, our desire to worship—no longer directed toward God—gets directed at our spouses and children. It places pressure on them they were not designed to bear, and many marriages and families collapse from the pressure.

Pinterest has placed a ridiculous amount of pressure on wedding receptions and even home decor that the average family can’t live up to. The kind of majesty that used to go into a cathedral now goes into a two year old’s birthday party.

There is something fundamentally flawed with this, and the sooner you take that pressure off your spouse, off your kids and off yourself, the healthier you become.

7. You probably married your opposite

All those things you loved about your spouse when you were dating are the some of the things that will drive you crazy when you’re married.

We just get attracted to our opposites.

Knowing that is progress in itself, and will help you delight in your spouse (when he or she isn’t driving you crazy over said opposites).

8. Counsellors are worth it

Toni and I first started seeing a counsellor when we were in our mid thirties. I should have gone when I was in my twenties.

I don’t know where I’d be as a person, husband, father and leader without the help I’ve had from some incredible Christian counsellors who have helped me see where I need grace and redemption.

I resisted going to counselling. If you’re resisting, stop. There’s freedom on the other side.

9. Progress starts when you see that you’re the problem

We had a great couple of first years, but when tension arose I thought none of it was my fault.

After all, I had little conflict as a single guy, so who had to be bringing all this tension in my marriage? Couldn’t have been me.

I could not have been more wrong.

Now I just assume I’m probably the problem. And I usually am. It’s simpler that way…in life and leadership.

10. Your unspoken assumptions can sink you

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything…or so we think.

In the kitchen, I take an ingredient out, and then I put it back. And wipe the counter. Then I take the next step in cooking whatever I’m cooking.

Toni takes everything out, makes a glorious meal, and cleans up later when the food is cooking.

assumed my way was the right way. But there’s no right and wrong here, just different.

Yet we didn’t know what was driving our kitchen tension until we named it. Now we can laugh at it (most days).

When you surface the assumptions…you mitigate the conflict.

11. When you agree on values, you’ll agree a lot more

Because it’s often the little things you fight about, it’s important to understand where you agree on the big things.

Big things would include your faith, your approach to parenting, your philosophy of life, your priorities, your finances and more.

When you agree on your values, you’ll agree on a lot more.

12. Remember that if you leave, you take all your unresolved problems to your next relationship

This is simply true, and you’ve seen it 1000 times in others.

And you think you’ll be the exception to the rule.

You won’t be.

13. Pray together

Pray together. Out loud.

Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s awkward.

Yes, men resist it. And yes, pastors resist it.

Do it.

14. If you’re a guy, lead your marriage spiritually

My wife and I met in law school. A progressive, left-leaning law school.

Had I even suggested in any way that I was the spiritual head of a home, I would have been laughed out of the school. Or maybe arrested.

But 25 years in, there’s no question I need to lead my wife spiritually. My leadership needs to reflect Christ’s leadership (a servant’s attitude motivated by love), but it’s still leadership.

Most men resist taking spiritual leadership at home. Most male leaders resist taking authentic, Christ-motivated loving leadership at home.

Start leading in love.

15. Go on weekly date nights

In the early days we had no money for date nights. We went anyway.

When your kids are young, it’s especially important because most of your conversation is ‘transactional’ (you cook…I’ll drive the kids to soccer).

In the rough seasons, sometimes we’d spend the first half of date night resolving arguments we couldn’t finish in the hum of every day life. Not fun, but probably healthy.

But we had some awesome date nights too.

Don’t have time? Don’t have money?

Well, if you broke up, you’d date your new girlfriend.

So instead, date your wife. Your kids will thank you for it.

You’ll thank yourself for it one day too.

16. Don’t make your kids the centre of your family

In today’s culture, kids have become the centre of many homes.

Parents have stopped living for Christ and for each other and started basing all their decisions around their kids.

There are two problems with that.

First, your kids eventually leave…leaving you with a gaping hole.

Second, putting your kids at the centre of your home communicates to them that they’re more important than they are. And they know it. As Tim Elmore has suggested, this approach produces kids with high arrogance and low self-esteem.

Child-centered parenting produces self-centred kids.

The best gift you can give your kids is a Christ-centered, healthy marriage.

17. Take personal vacations WITHOUT the kids

We were one of the few couples among our friends who did this, but every year Toni and I would get away even for a night or two WITHOUT the kids.

Our friends would tell us it had been 3, 5 even 10 years since they’d done it.

I’m so glad we took the time to do that. It renewed and remade us. We made significant progress on our relationships so many times we did that. Plus…so much of it was fun.

18. Take family vacations every year

We also took family vacations every year. Often they weren’t glorious. We did what we could afford.

But our kids (now 23 and 19) tell us it was one of their favourite things growing up and something that really bonded our family.

I wrote more about why and how we took those vacations in this Parent Cue post.

Bottom line? You don’t have to go to Disney…you just have to go.

19. Figure out how to be a couple again BEFORE your kids grow up

When our then 16 year old drove off in the car with his brother on the day he got his driver’s licence, Toni and I were left standing in the living room waving good bye.

Then we looked at each other and said “Oh my goodness…before we know it, they’re going to be gone.”

We realized we had WAY more life ahead of us where it would just be us.

So we started new hobbies we could enjoy together (snowshoeing, hiking, cycling) and really worked on our friendship.

My favourite thing to do on my days off is to hang out with my best friend.

20. Open the gift of sex…it’s from God

There’s so much funk about sex. For the record, I believe marriage is the context God designed for sex.

The irony of course is that too many married couples lose interest in sex. I’ve met way too many people who tell me (because I’m a pastor I guess) that they live in a sexless marriage.

Significantly, our culture only glamorizes sex outside of marriage.

When was the last time you saw a married couple on TV or in a movie in a love scene? Right…you can’t remember.

You’re probably even thinking gross, I wouldn’t want to see that. (Not that any of us should be watching steamy scenes, but you get the point).

And now you see the problem.

Why, in our culture, is it not weird when a couple at a bar in a movie hooks up or a wife whose husband is out of town gets it on with her boss, but it is weird when two people who have committed to each other for life have sex?

Why?

Married people: sex is a gift. Open it.

The more emotionally, relationally and spiritually close you get to your spouse, the better it gets.

Okay, that’s about all I’m comfortable saying about sex. :)

What About You?

I could not be more excited about the next 25 years. It feels like we have a foundation for more joy, less pain, and more of Christ…together. It hasn’t been easy…but it’s been completely worth it.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have made it through 6 months, a year, 10 years or 50 years of marriage.

What are you learning? What’s helped you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

meetings

5 Signs Bad Governance Is Stifling Your Church’s Growth and Mission

You probably almost didn’t open this blog post, did you?

Governance?

Who cares about governance?

Well, if you care about church growth and accomplishing your mission, read on.

I’m convinced bad governance is a key contributing factor as to why many churches don’t grow.

And, conversely, I’m convinced that good governance is a key factor as to why some churches do grow.

In fact, there’s a good chance bad governance is frustrating you right now…and you might not even know it.

Bad governance…or maybe more charitably, unhelpful governanceis pretty much the norm in church world. Even if you have decent people on your board or boards, the system itself is sometimes the obstacle.

I’ve never heard a conference talk on how governance can help a church grow. I’ve never seen a webinar on it. Apart from this really good blog post and this great book, I haven’t seen much at all.

But if you spend 3 minutes going over these 5 issues, I think your church could end up poised for greater growth. Or at least you’ll have better insight into why things aren’t going the way you hoped they’d be going.

Bad governance is the silent killer of many great church missions.

meetings

Don’t Be So Emotional

Before we jump into the signs that bad governance is stifling your church’s growth, a few words.

I realize that many denominations pride themselves on governance as much as they do on theology. I get that.

So as you read through this you might be tempted to think I’m being unbiblical in my critiques or even insensitive to your denomination’s approach. As a former member of a denomination, (I lead a non-denominational church now), I can empathize.

Yet many forms of church governance are not so much biblical as they are historical, which means they should be open to change. Most governance systems were designed to work in an era when churches were smaller, when communities and cities themselves were smaller, and when we were not living in a post-Christian era.

This doesn’t mean all vestiges of historic church governance should be ousted. But I’ve seen many cases where church governances hurts the mission of the church more than it helps the mission of the church. What worked 200 years ago has stopped working today.

Churches that are willing reformulate governance (within the parameters of scripture of course) will do far better than those who don’t.

So as we go through these 5 signs related to bad church governance, try not to get defensive. Stay open. There’s too much at stake not to rethink everything in the church.

5 Signs Bad Church Governance is Stifling Your Church’s Growth and Mission

So how does governance hurt the mission rather than help it? Here are 5 signs your governance is working against your mission, not for it:

1. Your board or congregation loves to micromanage

Small churches are notorious for wanting approval on every decision, from the paint colour in the kids ministry rooms to every hire in the church, to every minute curriculum change.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Why?

Once you reach a certain size, ministry becomes complex enough that two hours a month or even a monthly congregational meeting isn’t nearly enough time to meaningfully review the issues before the congregation.

Just think about it for a second.

A pastor or staff member will have spent 160 hours working on issues in a month…minimum. A board member might spend two. A congregational member might spend an hour..or, more likely, about 30 seconds, before passing judgment.

How can a board make a decision on every item in the allotted time? How on earth can a congregation?

Yet it’s not that hard to find board members and congregational members who have opinions on everything…no matter how ill-informed those opinions might be.

Boards and congregations that micromanage keep their churches small because of their need to control every decision.

Churches in which boards micromanage rarely grow beyond 200 attenders because the issues facing churches larger than that require boards to stop micromanaging (here are 7 other reasons churches never break the 200 attendance mark).

Micromanaging shrinks the size of the congregation back to the size in which everything can be ‘controlled’.

One more thing on micromanagement.

Great leaders never say “Please micromanage me.”  So if you want to repel great leaders, micromanage them.

2. Your congregation demands consensus

Somewhere along the way someone got the idea that everyone has to agree with every decision.

I think that someone is crazy.

Where on earth did the idea that we need consensus on every decision emerge?

If Moses had waited for consensus before leaving Egypt, the Israelites would still be in slavery.

Consensus kills courage. Churches that look for consensus will never find courage, and churches that find courage will rarely find consensus…at least initially.

When you drive for consensus, decisions get watered down to the point where all the risk is gone, and any boldness evaporates. You get churches that come out in favour of yard sales and Mother’s Day. And that’s about it.

Look, if you and your spouse can’t agree on where to go on vacation, how do you think you’ll get 200, or 2000, people to agree on anything significant as a church?

Almost nothing gets accomplished if everyone has a say.

So should you ever try for consensus? Well, yes, but likely at the board level. John Stickl has a fascinating approach to consensus style leadership in a mega-church context that he explains in Episode 29 of my leadership podcast.

3. Your board or congregation doesn’t trust the staff

This sounds so basic, but it’s so often missed.

For a church to grow and be healthy, there has to be a high level of trust between the staff and the board and congregation.

Naturally, that trust has to be earned by the pastors and staff.

But it’s amazing to me how many people in churches distrust their pastors and staff for no good reason. Churches that cultivate a default assumption of suspicion, not trust, will always pay a price.

The best leader I know on this subject is Andy Stanley, and if you haven’t listened to his 20 minute podcast on trust v. suspicion, you should.

Bottom line?

If you don’t trust the staff, fire the staff. If you trust them, let them lead.

4. Your staff hates the board

I realize hate is a strong word. But I’ve met enough church leaders who loathe their boards to know the problem goes both ways.

Sure. Look. I know you don’t have your ‘dream board’ yet.

You inherited a board when you stepped into leadership. We all did.

When I began in leadership, the three small churches had a total attendance of 45 people (adding all three together), but had 18 elders (I’m not making this up).

The average age of the eldership was about 70, and they had all presided over churches that had been stuck for decades. There were some great people on the board. And there were a few who were not ideally suited for leadership.

That could have been a recipe for disaster.

But why not see it as an opportunity instead?

You have to start cultivating a relationship with the people you have in leadership before you can work with the people you want in leadership.

If there are toxic board members, you can deal with that. And over time you can build a better board.

But if you hate your board after 3 years of leadership, it’s not your board’s fault, it’s yours.

You haven’t done the hard work of cultivating a relationship of trust or moving unhealthy board members off.

So get started. Be a great steward of who you have, not who you don’t have.

5. Your board focuses on complainers

If your church board meetings usually begin with “So and so isn’t happy about X”, you have a problem.

Sometimes boards feel it’s their responsibility to speak up for people who don’t have a voice.

That might be true for widows and orphans. It’s not true for the cranky church member who is opposed to everything.

As my friend Reggie Joiner says, great churches focus on who they’re trying to reach, not who they’re trying to keep.

Why do so many churches struggle with trying to please people?

That’s great question. Here are a few blog posts and a book I’ve written on the subject of handling opposition to your vision:

Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition

3 Hard But Powerful Truths About Likablity and Leadership

Why You Need to Stop Thinking Your Church Is For Everyone

Boards (and congregations) that focus on who they’re trying to reach will be much healthier and do much better than congregations that focus on complainers.

What Do You See?

I realize this is tough medicine and may come as a shock to some leaders, but I do think bad governance in the silent killer in many churches.

What do you think? What are you seeing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Punch someone

7 Ways To Respond When You Want to Punch Someone—And You’re a Christian

Feel like you want to punch someone? Or at least not deal with them anymore?

What do you do when the person in question goes to your church?

How do you handle that tension when you’re a…Christian?

It’s strange, but being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you good at resolving conflict. In fact, many Christians and many churches are terrible at it.

Unresolved—or poorly resolved—conflict sinks a lot of potential in the church. It also causes thousands of staff and volunteers to leave every year. And it makes millions of church goers simply miserable.

Fun isn’t it?

Chances are you already know exactly what I’m talking about. Even better. You know exactly who I’m talking about.

In the United States alone, 70% of the people who will go to work today will tell you they don’t like their jobs. I don’t think that’s just an American issue. It’s a people issue.

So many people I know get frustrated at work. And one of the top frustrations?

The people they work with.

Ditto for church world (no stat…I’ve just visited enough churches to feel comfortable saying that).

Sometimes the people we’re most frustrated with are the people we work with (staff and volunteers) and the people we worship with.

How do you fix that without becoming a jerk or letting the tension simmer unresolved?

Punch someone

Why Do Christians Struggle With Conflict So Much?

Before we jump to how to resolve conflict, let’s understand why we have it.

First, on this side of heaven conflict is inevitable. But that said, here’s why I think Christians often struggle with conflict:

In the name of grace, Christians sacrifice truth.

In the name of truth, Christians sacrifice grace.

We worry about hurting other people’s feelings, when really one of the best things we can do is offer honest feedback.

And in the end, we’re not sure how to support someone we genuinely disagree with, we swing the extremes: we avoid the situation or we blow it up.

None of that needs to be.

7 Healthy Ways to Resolve Tension and Conflict

I have learned (through trial and error), that these 7 strategies below can help me deal with conflict.

I hope they can help you.

They can work with coworkers, with a boss, with a volunteer, with a friend—with anyone you have a relationship with.

Here are 7 ways that I hope can help you resolve conflict with someone you work with:

1. Own your part of the problem

Conflict and even bad chemistry is almost never 100% one person’s fault.

One of the best expressions I’ve heard on how to figure out the extent to which you might be part of the problem is to ask a compelling question: What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

Jeff Henderson asked that question in a great series at North Point Church called Climate Change.

You can listen to the message for free here, and a scroll through the small group questions in and of itself is instructive. Own what you can.

So…what is it like to be on the other side of you? Ask some people.

2. Go direct

Issues in the church are often mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone.

Your co-worker at the water cooler isn’t the problem, so why talk to him about it?

Jesus was crystal clear on how to handle conflict, but very few Christians follow his practice.

In the name of being ‘nice’ (I can’t tell her that!), we become ineffective.

Talk to the person you have the problem with. Directly. Or else just be quiet about it.

3. Give them the benefit of the doubt 

The person you’re upset with might not realize how they are coming across. It’s okay to say that out loud.

“Rachel, you might not realize this, but sometimes you emails can come across as demanding or even demeaning. I’m not sure you’re aware of that, but I just wanted to let you know how they leave me feeling sometimes.”

That gives the person an out, and frankly, many times, they probably had no idea they were coming across negatively.

Giving a person an out and the benefit of the doubt preserves their dignity.

4. Explain. Don’t blame

How to talk to the person you’re struggling with is where many people struggle.

And those conversations often go sideways because people begin with blame.

Don’t blame. Explain.

Instead of saying “You always” or “You never” (which might be how you feel like starting), begin by talking about how you experience them.

If you’re dealing with an ‘angry person’ for example, you might frame it this way “Jake, I just want you to know that when you get upset in a meeting, it makes me feel like the discussion is over and I can’t make a contribution.”

If you’re you’re dealing with gossip, try something like:  “Ryan, on Tuesday when you told me what happened to Greg on the weekend, I felt like that was something Greg should have told me directly.”

Do you hear the difference between explaining and blaming?

5. Be specific

Giving one or two specific incidents is much better making general accusations or commenting on personality traits. “The other day in the meeting” or “In your email on the the August numbers yesterday” is much more helpful then “You just always seem so frustrated.”

The more specific you are, the more you de-escalate conflict and move toward a hopeful ending.

6. Tell them you want things to get better

What the person you’re confronting needs is hope.

At this point, they probably feel defensive, ashamed and (hopefully) sorry.

Let them know the gifts they bring to the table and the good they do.

7. Pray for them

I know this sounds trite, but it’s not. Don’t pray about them. Pray for them.

It is almost impossible to stay angry with someone you pray for.

It can also give you empathy for them, and at least in your mind’s eye, it places you both firmly at the foot of the cross in need of forgiveness.

It will take any smirk of superiority out of your attitude, which goes a long way toward solving problems.

What Are You Learning?

Do these seven steps always result in a positive outcome? No.

But I believe they will resolve the majority of cases in front of you in a very healthy way. At least they have for me. (This approach, by the way, is also effective at home and in most relationships in life.)

I don’t get all 7 approaches right every time, but when I can practice them, I find that conflict almost always resolves better.

What would you add to the list? What’s worked for you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

carey-nieuwhof-orange-tour

7 Keys to Leading High Capacity Volunteers (Orange Conference 2015 Talk Notes)

This week I’m excited to be speaking at the Orange Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

As a way of serving those who attend my talks (and couldn’t be there but want to track with what’s happening) I’ll be posting the outline to each talk I give here on the blog.

Even if you don’t attend the conference, I hope you can glean a few insights from them that might help you lead better now.  And if you’re in the session, you won’t have to guess what that pesky blank you forgot to fill in was all about.

Here’s my talk outline for my 7 Keys to Leading High Capacity Volunteers session.

carey-nieuwhof-orange-tour

Introduction

As a leader, you aspire to attract, keep and grow a team of high-capacity volunteers. But are you dreaming the impossible dream? Learn to keep your vision grounded by starting with a look at the flipside: where and why you’re losing your top volunteers.

Then take a guided tour through the 7 key ways to get your best people on board… and keep them there.

7 Keys To Leading High Capacity Volunteers

1. Give them a significant challenge.

a. People with significant leadership gifting respond best to significant challenges.

2. Continually communicate your mission, vision and strategy.

a. Mission and vision unite.

b. Strategy begins as divisive, but ultimately aligns a church.

3. Be organized

a. Few things are more demotivating to a volunteer than discovering the staff person didn’t set you up to succeed.

b. Some people will put with disorganization, but high capacity leaders will ultimately give up.

4. Refuse to let people off the hook

a. Your organization will drift to the level of accountability the team leader establishes.

b. Ask yourself, whom would I rather lose: highly motivated volunteers or poorly motivated volunteers?

5. Play favorites

a. Spend 80% of your time with the people who give you 80% of your results.

6. Surround high capacity people with high capacity people.

Like attracts like and like keeps like.

7. Pay them in nonfinancial currencies.

a. People gravitate most toward where they are valued most.

b. 5 non-financial currencies:

 I. Gratitude

II. Attention

III. Trust

IV. Empowerment

V. Respect

Want More?

Here are some related posts that can help you dig deeper on this subject.

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

How to Get Your Volunteers to Own Your Mission Like Staff (CNLP 020 With Frank Bealer)

6 Very Avoidable Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers

For further resources, access the free archive of thought-provoking, practical interviews with today’s top church leaders on The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.

5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting In Our Post-Christian World

Almost every Christian leader I talk to has a passion for reaching people who don’t know Christ.

But as we’ve seen before, our culture is changing so rapidly before our eyes that many of the methods we’ve used to tell people about Christ become less effective with every passing month.

If you keep using methods that worked decades ago to talk to people outside the Christian faith about Jesus, you might see some fruit. But I’m quite certain you’ll lose the vast majority of people you’re trying to influence, and I’m positive you’ll lose the vast majority of people under age 35.

In the post-Christian, post-modern age in which we live, the methods of evangelism have to change in order to keep the mission alive.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the post-Christian mind looks like, this study from the Barna Group outlines 15 criteria that delineate the trend.

So what’s changing in evangelism? More than you might think.

While there are many things that are shifting in how we should approach evangelism in a post-Christian, post-modern world, these 5 stand out to me as shifts I’m seeing not just in the ministry I lead, but across many churches:

1. Embracing the question is as important as giving an answer

For me, evangelism used to be mostly about helping people find answers. In fact, I’ve been very anxious to get people to answers. I still am.

But, often, in the process of getting people to an answer, I would fail to really embrace or honour their question. Increasingly, that’s a massive mistake.

Almost no one likes going into a store and asking a question only to have a customer service person blow past your question or make you feel stupid. In fact, your most positive experiences have likely been those in which someone listens to your question, takes it seriously, appreciates it, and then tries to respond to it thoughtfully and helpfully.

Too often, Christian apologists rush past the question to get to an answer.

Church leaders who embrace people’s questions will be far more effective in the future than leaders who don’t.

Listen to the difference:

“So when I die, will be in reincarnated?”

Answer: Christians don’t believe in reincarnation. So no, not at all. You’ll be resurrected in Christ. 

or

Answer: That’s a great question. Thanks for asking it. Actually, the Christian experience focuses on resurrection. Would you like to talk about that? 

Which answer would you rather hear?

 

2. Steering the conversation is better than pushing for a conclusion

One of my favourite environments at our church is Starting Point. It’s an eight week small group experience for people who are new to Christianity, new to faith or returning to church after an absence.

Our best Starting Point leaders are not the people with all the answers or the leaders who are always trying to ‘close the deal’.

If you have 12 people in a conversation, you’re likely to have 12 different world views, many of which might seem “Christian” but in truth aren’t.

Our best Starting Point leaders are people who can steer a conversation.

They don’t freak out at people’s questions, no matter how strange they might be.

They listen without judgment.

They affirm a person’s intentions.

Our best leaders listen, don’t judge, thank people for their input, and then gently steer the conversation back toward truth.

Listening, empathizing, and then steering the conversation back toward truth will often get you much further with post-moderns than slamming on the brakes and telling them they’re wrong.

3. Being open is more effective than being certain

Don’t get me wrong, Christians can be certain. Ultimately, Christians must be certain because our faith is certain. Our faith stands on a sure and certain ground.

But, when talking to post-moderns, coming across as certain is far less effective than coming across as open.

I mean, people will be able to tell that you have a depth of conviction if they spend more than a few minutes talking to you.

But leading with that conviction all the time can be counter-productive.

The person who is always certain thinks they’re being convincing when the opposite is often true. You’re less convincing because being perpetually certain makes you appear anti-intellectual, closed and a bit arrogant (see below).

If you’re open to people and their views, they’ll be more open to you. Even if underneath all that, you’re certain. Because you likely are.

4. Arrogance, smugness and superiority are dead

For too long, Christian apologetics has carried with a tone of arrogance, smugness and superiority.

If you want to repel anyone under 40, lead with that.

Arrogance is so ingrained in many Christian cultures that Christians don’t even see it or hear it anymore.

Humility is attractive. Humility is what makes Jesus so much more attractive to people than the Pharisees who lack it.

Arrogance is only ever attractive to the arrogant.

Arrogance also a sin. So repent. Get over your smugness and superiority.

Humbly love your God, love your community, and love the people who don’t know him. God does.

5. The timeline is longer

I’m so A-Type I’d love to conclude everything in about 35 seconds.

Increasingly, evangelism doesn’t work that way.

Ever notice that people who come to faith when pressured often leave it after a few years? And that, conversely, the people who come to faith on their own timeline tend to be flourishing years down the road?

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself, and he will. But he didn’t promise to do it in 3 minutes, or during a 90 minute service or even an eight week class.

You need people and leaders who will take the time to go on a journey with people.

It kind of took the disciples 3 years to figure out who Jesus was, didn’t it? Why do you think your church will be any different?

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t lose our sense of urgency in the mission. I feel that urgency every day. Sometimes I think I feel it more every day. But we need to give people space and we need to give the Holy Spirit space to do His work.

So give people time and space to come to faith. Apparently, God does this too.

How About Your Context?

I’m not saying high-pressure evangelism never works or that God has stopped using it entirely.

I’m just saying I’m seeing it becoming increasingly less effective and that another methodology that shares the same end appears to be even more effective.

What are you seeing about how evangelism is changing in your community?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Reinvention: The 5 Different Leaders You Need to Become To Stay Effective

You’ve heard it said here more than a few times, you are the hardest person you will ever have to lead.

How do I know that? Because I’m the hardest person I have to lead.

It was 20 years ago this year that I moved my then-young family up to just north of Toronto to begin ministry. Although the form has changed as I moved from a denominational context to planting Connexus Church, there have been a core of leaders who have been with me from the very start.

The ministry has grown from 45 people in attendance and 100 people who would have called our original churches home in 1995, to 1000 in attendance and 2200 people who call our church home today.

The one thing that’s been constant in all of it is change.

And the one thing that’s been even more consistent is that I’ve had to change as a leader.

In many ways, our church has had 5 different pastors over the last two decades. They just all happened to be me.

Why? Because I had to keep reinventing myself and my leadership again and again to remain effective as a leader and as a Christ follower.

The same is true of you.

If you’re going to lead over the long haul, you need to reinvent yourself again and again.

If you don’t, you’ll simply stagnate as a leader and drift toward ineffectiveness. And something inside you will die too—like your soul.

So how exactly do you reinvent yourself? And what do you need to reinvent?

Here are some thoughts.

Stage 1: The Instinctive Leader

Most leaders start out operating from their instincts or defaults.

Your instincts will get you places. And they’ll work for you for a season.

After all, you’re new. And sometimes the combination of a fresh face and the passion you have when you’re young will get you a long way in leadership. At least at first.

My instinctive leadership style is aggressive, clear, focused and direct (I was a lawyer before I was a pastor…so forgive me). Those are strengths, and they helped a lot in the early days.

If you think about it, you’ll be able to recognize your default leadership instincts. Just look at how you naturally behave.

Following your instincts is almost always how every leader behaves within the first few years of leadership.  It will get you started, but they certainly won’t take you all the way.

 

Reinvention 1: The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Many of you were already chafing at my instinctive leadership style (aggressive, clear, focused and direct). And, honestly, it rubs some people the wrong way.

Your first reinvention as a leader has to happen when you realize your strengths have accompanying weaknesses.

The best leaders aren’t just intelligent, they’re emotionally intelligent.

The key to emotional intelligence is self-awareness.

As a result, wise leaders develop ‘learned behaviours’. Learned behaviours are simply behaviours you adopt to compensate for the edges of your strengths. For example, I’ve had to learn to listen, to be gracious, to be compassionate and to value the input of others.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit I had to learn those things, but it’s true.

There are behaviours you have to learn too. If you’re not sure what they are, just look for characteristics that are the opposite of your gift set or, better yet, ask people around you. They’ll tell you.

Reinvention 2: The Leader of Leaders

If you’re a bit gifted, it will easy to rely on your own charisma, gifts and skills to help grow the ministry. Don’t make that mistake.

Growing things all by yourself just doesn’t scale well, and it’s not sustainable. Eventually, things will implode and you’ll end up leading only the people you can personally impact directly.

If you’re going to lead well over the long haul, you have to learn to lead others well. And more than that, you have to attract highly capable people to leadership.

In fact, you have to learn to lead people who are better than you.

That’s big task, but it’s a necessary reinvention.

I outlined 5 ways to attract leaders who are better than you in this post. And I also outlined 6 reasons many leaders lose high capacity people in this post.

Reinvention 3: The Healthy Leader

Everybody has issues. And after a few years in leadership, yours will unmistakably surface.

Your personal demons and issues will infect your leadership, your marriage and your home life. There’s just no escape.

If you’re at that stage right now, there are three stories that might really be able to speak to you:

Perry Noble, on how depression and anxiety almost took him out of leadership.

Craig Jutila, on how his drivenness almost cost him his marriage and his family.

Justin and Trisha Davis, on how their personal issues almost killed their family and cost them their ministry.

Your personal demons will either take you, or you will decide to take them. It’s up to you.

As I share in some of the interviews above, I’m so grateful God gave me the grace and insight to deal with my personal issues along the way.

Reinvention 4: The Life-Long Student

If you’re waiting for the day when you arrive as a leader, you’ll be waiting forever.

As a leader, you should never stop growing. Growing your character is more important than growing your skill set, and yet growing your skill set is also a must.

Many leaders would rather be teachers instead of students. That’s a critical mistake. The leaders who want to be teachers, not students, will never be teachers worth following.

The best teachers are the best students. So be a student.

Do whatever it takes to grow your skill set. Read books and blogs. Listen to podcasts. Go to conferences. Connect with leaders ahead of you. Learn whatever you can.

You’re never done. And if you really want to lead well, you’ll realize how amazing that realization actually is.

Reinvention 5: The Change Agent

In the first 5-10 years of your leadership, you will likely have introduced a lot of change. You moved out the old and brought in the new.

Which is where most leaders get stuck.

Many leaders have the courage to change what someone else introduced. Few have the courage to change what they introduced.

Effective leadership means changing what you introduced. It means looking the people you lead in the eye and saying “For a season, that was the best way to do things. The season’s changed, and we need a new approach.”

As I’ve shared before, leaders need to marry the mission, not the method.

In light of the massive cultural shift happening around us, leaders are going to have to get more and more comfortable with changing what they’ve already changed.

What Do You Think?

Those are 5 reinventions I see most effective leaders move through.

What are some reinventions you’ve had to go through personally? What have you seen in others?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

secrets leaders won't tell you

11 Secrets Most Church Leaders Won’t Tell You

Leadership is a journey…a journey that’s probably different than you thought it would be before you stepped into leadership.

When I was young, I always thought leaders had it all figured out. That the uncertainty would one day disappear once I had more life and leadership under my belt.

But as you eventually learn, it doesn’t really work that way.

In fact, I think most leaders struggle more than they let on. I know personally, at one point or another, I’ve struggled in each of the areas listed below. But, at the time, because I didn’t want to tell anyone how I really felt, I kept mostly quiet.

Looking back, I realize for too long I kept far too much of it to myself.

You know what keeping it to yourself does, right?

It leaves you isolated. And the silence gives fear power—power it should never have.

secrets leaders won't tell you

11 Secrets Most Church Leaders Won’t Tell You

Just to let you know you’re not alone, and to break the power of darkness by cracking some daylight, here are 10 secrets most leaders won’t tell you:

1. I’m less secure than I appear

The together exterior doesn’t always match the fragile interior.

Security is a journey for sure…a tough one. Most people don’t like insecure leaders. But insecurity is a trap…the more insecure you are, the more you resist telling anyone you’re insecure. And the more they dislike you.

If it helps, I outline 5 signs you’re an insecure leader in this post, and 5 ways to become a more secure leader here.

I think the best way to start dealing with your insecurity is to admit it, and deal with it. Counsellors’ offices and best friends are great places to start with that by the way. So is prayer.

2. Getting close to God isn’t easy

There’s a particular pressure on pastors and church leaders to have a ‘great’ relationship with God.

But the truth is, our relationship is just like anyone else’s relationship with God. It has ups and downs.

Even as a church leader, you go through dry seasons. Okay, maybe especially as a church leader, you go through dry seasons spiritually.

I think church leaders struggle with God in different ways than most people. I outline those ways here.

3. I’m lonelier than I let on

Leadership is complex and involves going through seasons of unpopularity. It also involves making tough calls that can make you the goat, or at least feel like a goat.

Add to that the fact that most of us who are driven type leaders don’t do relationships easily, and sometimes it’s lonelier than it needs to be.

4. It’s hard at home sometimes

Let’s just say it. Our Instagrams lie. It’s not always easy at home.

It’s gotten better over the years, but there have been seasons in my leadership where my family got too much of my unfiltered stress. Not fair. Not fair at all. But true.

Home is hard. Work is hard. Put the two together in an ill-thought through combination and it can be lethal.

I really believe that, in the long run, everything rides on how you lead at home.

5. The criticism hurts

We pretend the criticism doesn’t hurt, but it does, whether we admit it or not.

We put our poker faces on, but deep down it stings.

Tell God.

Tell somebody.

And don’t let your family bear the brunt of it every time.

There are ways to make criticism sting less, but acknowledging it hurts is a great first step.

6. I’m afraid to ask for what I really want

I’ve usually been pretty forward in my leadership and I’m grateful for an incredibly honest dialogue I have with my staff and elder team where I serve.

But there are seasons where I’ve been afraid to ask for what I really want. And even as I type those words I think “That sounds so selfish.”

But sometimes you just need a vacation. Or, especially when your family is young and you’re just starting out, you need a raise. Or you need more staff. Or you need someone to have your back. Or you need a friend. You’re just afraid to ask.

You know what I’ve found? Almost every time I’ve asked, someone said “Why didn’t you ask sooner? We’d love to help.”

See what secrets and silence do?

7. I’ve thought about leaving even though I’m staying

You’ve thought about leaving, even though you’re staying…true? Of course it’s true, unless you just started last Tuesday, and even then…

Everyone goes through seasons of doubt and questions about the future.

But when you sit in silence with this one for too long, you end up waffling. Not staying, but not leaving either. You end up putting in half an effort, and you’re half the leader you could be.

Brad Lomenick offers some great insight in Episode 27 of my podcast about how to know when it’s time to go, and I outlined 5 signs it’s time to move on in this post.

8. My secret job is nothing like this job

One of the reasons leadership is hard is because you deal with so many intangibles. It’s brain work. People management. Conflict management. Getting people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

On bad days, many leaders I know dream of doing something entirely different. For a season, my escape job was to stack boxes in a warehouse. Because at least if you moved a box, it stayed moved.

9. I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing

Eventually you reach a level of leadership, either because you’ve been at it long enough or because whatever you’re leading got big enough, that you realize there are no clear answers. There just aren’t.

You surrounded yourself with the smartest people you could and you realize that even the smart people don’t know what to do.

That’s where real leadership begins—when you feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing, but you keep doing anyway.

That’s how history gets changed. You were just the last person standing, even though inside it felt like sheer confusion.

10. People seem to believe in me more than I believe in myself some days

When you’ve been through #9 enough times, you will be ready to give up believing in yourself. But you look around and realize other people keep believing in you.

That’s exactly what you need. You’re likely leading very well if enough of the good people keep believing in you.

So when you stop believing in you, keep believing in the people who believe in you.

11. I thought we would have made more progress by now

You don’t want to say it out loud, but you really do think you would have made more progress by now.

You look at all the overnight successes and think “How come that wasn’t me?” This only works, of course, until you look more closely at the overnight successes only to realize almost all of them were 5-15 years in the making.

The fact that your vision is bigger than your reality is paradoxically a sign that you’re a good leader.

So keep being mildly disappointed, because it will always spur you on to more.

And one day when it’s over you’ll look back and be amazed at how much you actually accomplished.

What Are Your Secrets?

What thoughts do you have that you have a hard time admitting to anyone else?

I’d love to hear them.

And what’s yours experience with these 10?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

weekend attendance

10 Simple Changes You Can Make to Help Boost Weekend Church Attendance

There’s no doubt the church is undergoing a massive cultural shift as people attend church less often, and even regular attenders show up less frequently than before. (I outlined that trend in detail in this five part blog series.)

As much as everything is changing and we need to respond to that, almost every church still holds weekend services and likely will for years to come.

So, in the meantime, what can you do to help reach more people? What can you do to boost weekend church attendance?

Before you think this is just a numbers game, realize it’s also a spiritual issue.

To me, declining attendance is a spiritual issue because I believe that disconnected people rarely grow spiritually.

Connect people and they grow. Disconnect people, and they don’t.

So, naturally, I’m motivated to connect people.

Can we connect people outside Sunday? Absolutely. By all means connect people through groups, other gatherings, in local mission and so much more.

And yet this truth remains: the weekend service is, functionally, a primary way most people connect with the church and connect with God.

So to ignore Sundays is to ignore a reality that impacts hundreds of millions of people every week.

weekend attendance

10 Changes You Can Make to Boost Weekend Attendance

So if you’re holding weekend services, what can you do to bump weekend attendance positively, knowing that it will help people connect better to God?

Here are 10 ideas that are relatively simple to implement:

1. Invite, don’t assume

I think many leaders still hold the assumption that if you attend church, you’ll be there weekly. As we’ve seen before, that’s just not true anymore.

So instead of just closing the serve and assuming everyone will be back, invite people to come back. Close the service by saying something like “Next week we’ll be (fill in the blank) and we’d love for you to join us.”

When you change your language this way, you raise the anticipation level.

2.  Facilitate an experience more than a show

As worship has changed over the last generation, in many ways it has become as much of a ‘show’ as it has anything else.

As both David Kinnaman and John Stickl have pointed out on recent leadership podcast episodes (episode 24 and 29 respectively), millennials are far less attracted to ‘the show’ (highly produced, highly generic services) than their boomer parents and grandparents.

If you’re in a large church, the show will be the experience killer. People don’t want to attend something that they can access just as easily via podcast.

If you’re a small church, mediocrity (poorly produced, poorly executed services) will be the experience killer. It’s hard to draw people back to something that’s consistently underwhelming or poorly done.

I think the future will belong to leaders who can facilitate compelling gatherings (large or small) that usher people into the presence of God.

John Stickl provides great insight on how to usher millennials into the presence of God in a megachurch setting. It’s worth the listen.

3. Employ more than one or two senses

I’m a verbal, logical learner, so my default it always just to talk or write.

But I realized a long time ago I need to engage visual learners and other learning styles.

Increasingly, our team is using media like this in our services to help people connect with the full message and impact of the Gospel. In my teaching, I’m using more infographics and images in addition to words to communicate points.

This goes far beyond music, images and words.

Even communion is sensory, something that can’t just be reduced to a few words or yet another bottom line.

Lighting levels, haze and even incense can add to an experience.  You can’t podcast any of those things.

4. Make the next step beyond Sunday clear

Many leaders don’t point to anything beyond the next Sunday’s message (if they do that).

I’m increasingly passionate about helping people find their next step.

Recently at Connexus Church, where I lead, we introduced a Next Steps kiosk at our locations. We staff it with some of our best volunteers who understand our mission and love connecting with people.

We train them to read where people are at and make recommendations on which next step is best for them. For some it may be baptism, for others it might be Starting Point or group, for still others it could be serving or inviting a friend.

The goal is to get people to engage by taking a step. Why? Engaged people grow faster. It’s as simple as that.

They also tend to show up more (but that’s a by-product of their growth).

5. Teach in series

Many preachers now teach in series, but there’s a surprising number who don’t. Next Sunday still consists of whatever the preacher thought up on Monday afternoon (or Saturday night). Bad idea on about a hundred levels.

Teaching in 3 to 10 week message series gives people something to look forward to. Plus, it gives you something new to feature every month or two.

Additionally, series are memorable. I am amazed at how many times people tell me about a series we did years ago that impacted them. They remember the name, the bottom line and even the artwork.

Plus, a new series gives everyone a fresh chance to invite a friend.

6. Angle your messages as connected parts (think ‘episodes’)

If you teach in series, it means you won’t be as tempted to ‘cover all the bases’ in one sermon. You have a series for that.

I try to cover ONE idea per message. No more, no less.

That means you can pick up where you left off the week before after a brief recap of where the series has gone so far.

Rather than pushing people away, that draws people in. It’s why series like Suits, Downton Abbey or House of Cards are so successful. You can’t easily jump into the middle of a season—you need to watch from the beginning.

I’m not suggesting you make your message hard to access for first time attenders. Not at all. Just let them know there’s more that addresses the questions they’re asking.

It will drive people to your podcasts or website to catch up on what they missed, and make them want to come back.

You can still make the message ‘work’ as a standalone, but building continuity with other parts of the series makes it an experience people want to come back to.

And because you’re changing series every 3-8 weeks, you have lots of opportunity to start fresh throughout the year.

7. Give people homework

One aspect of teaching so many preachers miss is application. We give too much information and not nearly enough application.

Preachers, ask yourself, what are people going to do with this message on a Tuesday? If you can’t answer that, don’t preach it.

Sometimes I work harder on the application than I do on other areas of the message. Why? Because people remember what they apply. And because application is everything.

Don’t just ask what people need to know. Ask what people need to do. Then answer that, clearly.

8. Encourage everybody to bring somebody

People who invite people to church with them tend to not miss church.

I would strongly encourage you to elevate the value of inviting and bringing friends. Forget the weekend attendance that might bring.

It’s also one of the best ways for people to grow spiritually. Sharing your faith grows your faith.

Finally, it moves your church far closer to accomplishing its mission; sharing the hope of Christ with the world. Why wouldn’t everybody bring somebody?

9. Specifically invite people to follow you on social media

If your church has a social media presence on Sundays (most do), talk about it!

As I outlined in this post, most of us don’t. What a mistake. Stop greeting people like it’s 1999.

By encouraging people to connect with you via social media, you can connect with them all week long.

10. Make volunteering a great experience

If your volunteers hate serving, they’ll be looking to escape from your church any time they don’t have to be there.

Here’s a post that explains why many churches lose high capacity volunteers.  Here’s another one that outlines 7 questions every volunteer asks but never says out loud.

You want your volunteers to love serving so much that it creates a contagious environment.  In Episode 20 of my leadership podcastFrank Bealer from Elevation Church explains how what Elevation Church does to get thousands of volunteers as passionate about their mission as staff.

Turn around your volunteer culture, and you will have a far more irresistible weekend gathering.

What About You?

Those are some things we’re thinking about and doing around our leadership table to respond to the trend of declining attendance we’re all seeing.

What are you doing? What has enticed you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

cynicism

6 Reasons Leaders Grow Cynical (And How to Fight the Trend)

Find yourself becoming a little more cynical every year as a leader?

Few of us decide we’re going to be cynical…we just kind of end up there.

How does that happen?

How does a heart grow hard? How do you end up trusting no one? How does hope die?

Cynicism grows in the hearts of far too many leaders. Not only does it impact how you lead at work or in ministry, eventually your growing cynicism will tear at the fabric of your marriage and even at your relationship with your kids. Nobody likes a cynic.

If you find yourself gradually growing more cynical, you’re not alone.

I think leadership breeds cynicism for several reasons. The good news is you can beat it if you understand how it forms.

cynicism

6 Reasons Leaders Grow Cynical

So why do leaders grow cynical? Here are 6 reasons I’ve seen in myself and in others:

1. You know too much

The more you lead, the more you know. And the more you know, the easier it is to grow cynical.

This shouldn’t surprise us at all. Solomon said it 3000 years ago. The wisest man in his day had to battle cynicism at a very deep level (ever read Ecclesiastes?). In Ecclesiastes 1:18 Solomon make the link between knowledge and sorrow crystal clear:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Boom. There it is.

Think of all you’ve seen as a leader. The heartbreak, the betrayals, the politics, the people you believed in who kept letting you down.

You know too much. You’ve seen too much.

And not knowing how to handle what you’ve seen and what you know creates an incubator for cynicism.

2. You haven’t grieved your losses

Leadership is a series of wins and losses. If you’re like me, you hardly notice the wins, but you feel every loss.

Years ago, a mentor pointed out to me that most pastors never grieve their losses. Every time someone leaves your church, it’s a loss. Every time you do a funeral, it’s a loss. Every time you can’t do what you hoped you could do as a leader, it’s a loss.

Most of us just stuff the losses; pretending they don’t matter.

When I first realized I’d stuffed a lot of losses over my life, I cried. A lot. I mean like almost for a month kind of crying. That seemed to clear the backlog.

Now, when I sense there’s a loss (even a small one), I grieve it before God.

There’s a reason people in Biblical times would declare 40 days of mourning. I used to read those passages and think “What’s wrong with those people? Why can’t they just go back to work?”

Actually, there’s something healthy about grieving your losses.

What do you need to grieve that you haven’t grieved?

3. You haven’t dealt with your issues

In addition to the losses you experience in life and leadership, we all bring baggage with us from the past.

I ran from dealing with my ‘stuff’ for years. After all, I was a good leader. I didn’t have any baggage. I sent people to counselling. I didn’t go to counselling.

How wrong that attitude was. Apparently, I did have baggage. And it was impacting not only my leadership, but my marriage and parenting. I’m so thankful I found some trained Christian counsellors to help me work through my issues.

If any of this is resonating with you, I want to encourage you to jump over to listen to Perry Noble and I tell our stories of burnout and depression in this post (and interview).

4. You’ve projected past failures onto new situations

When you don’t deal with your issues or grieve your losses, you end up projecting past failures onto new situations.

Here’s how cynicism operates.

Cynicism looks at a new team member and says “I’ll bet it’s just a matter of time until he screws up”.

Cynicism looks at a new class of 9th graders and says “They’re just like the kids who drove me nuts last year.”

Cynicism sees the newlyweds and says “I wonder how long until they hit the rocks?”

Cynicism sees the new church and decides “It will only be a matter of time until they implode too.”

If you want to fight cynicism, stop projecting past failures onto new situations.

5. You’ve decided to stop trusting

As soon as cynicism gets a toehold in your life, you stop trusting.

Because the next person is just like the last person, you decide those kind of people can’t be trusted. Or worse, people can’t be trusted.

Really?

Is that how you want to live? What kind of leader does that make you? What kind of person does that make you?

Or, without inducing a guilt trip, what kind of Christ-follower does that make you (isn’t the heart of our faith forgiveness and hope)?

If you want to kick cynicism in the teeth, trust again. Believe again. Hope again.

6. You’ve lost your curiosity

I think an incredibly effective long term antidote to cynicism is curiosity.

The curious are never cynical.

The curious are always interested, always open to new possibilities, always thinking, always hopeful. I wrote a post about the link between cynicism and how to become more curious here.

Because cynicism tends to creep up with age, you’ll notice there are (sadly) a lot of cynical old people. My favourite elderly people are never the cynical, but the curious. The ones who at 80 are still learning, still open, still hopeful, still passionate about the next generation, still optimistic.

When was the last time you were honestly curious about something? Pursue curiosity, and cynicism will die of a thousand pinpricks.

What Kills Cynicism in You?

If you’ve felt cynicism growing inside you, what’s making it grow? What’s helping you beat it?

I’d love to hear from you. Scroll down and add to the conversation by leaving a comment!

bias for action

Why Leaders Who Hold THIS Bias Are The Most Effective Leaders

You probably have something exciting that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time.

Every leader has dreams, goals and hopes.

The challenge is you haven’t done anything about it…yet.

And as a result, so few leaders end up with a track record of accomplishment.

Why?

Because almost all of us struggle with something the most effective leaders in their field don’t struggle with.

What is it?

It’s a bias so few leaders have. But the great ones all possess.

bias for action

Three Friends — One Bias

A few years ago, I began to notice a trend among some friends that were accomplishing a lot.

One good friend was launching a business and was frustrated with the lack of traction he was seeing that week. So he decided to host a webinar…ten days later. Believe it or not, 600 people joined him for it.

I had another friend launched a weekly podcast eighteen months ago, as a side-line to his full time job. This was at a time when I was still thinking about launching a leadership podcast. At the time I was thinking a monthly podcast was a huge commitment. But he launched…weekly. Convicting.

Now to a third friend.  He’s a prolific reader (40-50 books a year) and a super smart thinker and speaker. I told him he needs to write a book. He said he had thought about.

I urged him to do it and so did another friend. Within a few weeks he had sent me draft chapters to review. Amazing.

What do all three leaders have in common?

A bias for action.

Maybe You’re Hallucinating

This challenges me because I tend to think about things a lot before acting.

For example, I thought about hosting a podcast for two years before I launched this one (and, yes, I ended up going weekly in the end).  To date, I’ve only thought about hosting a webinar.

And my next book has been three years in the making (it releases in 2015…thanks for your patience…stay tuned).

Shipping is more important than dreaming. If you don’t act, you’ve got nothing. All you’ve got is a desire.

As Thomas Edison famously said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

 Action is Stunning

Action is stunning because so few people actually do it. So few people act on their dreams.

Often the difference between you and the leaders you admire is they acted. You didn’t.

And you know what a desire becomes when it’s never acted on, don’t you? It becomes a regret.

Far too many people waste their potential, squander their vision and languish in mediocrity because they just don’t act.

So why don’t you stun someone this week? Act.

I’ll bet you even stun yourself when you do.

Press Start

Here’s my hunch. You know exactly what you need to do. 

Come on…you know what it is:

That change you need to make in your church

The project you need to launch.

That book you need to write.

The blog you need to get started on.

That team member you need to deal with.

That unchurched neighbour you need to have over for dinner.

That series you need to find the courage to preach.

So what’s holding you back?

Be honest.

Maybe it’s fear.

Or a lack of confidence

Or the belief you might fail.

Well….

The only way to get past fear is to move through it.

The brave aren’t the brave because they don’t feel fear. They’re brave because they pushed through it.

The only way to gain confidence is to do something. So go do it.

Truthfully, your dream is failing right now. You have nothing to lose by acting on your dream except the 100% guarantee of failure that comes from not acting on it.

Now…before you leave a comment (scroll down to add to the conversation), decide what you need to act on.

Then act.

A bias toward action is a bias every effective leader has. So get moving.