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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.

First, that God somehow got it wrong when he created you. And second, 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

lead your senior leader

The 5 Best Ways to Lead Your Senior Leader

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

But you’re not. At least not yet.

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

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

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

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

Here are the 5 best strategies I’ve seen. I’ve observed these both when people are leading up to me and used them when I’m leading up to others more senior than me in an organization.

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

shutterstock_421546573

1. Think like a senior leader

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

Think through how it impacts the entire organization.

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

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

I’ve spent many years as a senior leader, and I’ll disclose a bias here.

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

Why?

They’re thinking about more than just themselves.

They did their homework.

They helped me do my homework.

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

I always try to stay open to new ideas, but here’s the truth. Often before the person has finished their presentation or we’ve wrapped up the discussion, I’ve already thought through 15 implications of their idea.

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

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

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

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

2. Express desires, not demands

No one likes a demanding person.

In fact, when someone demands something, I notice there’s something inside me that doesn’t want to give them what they asked for.

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

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

3. Explain the why behind the what

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

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

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

The more you explain the Why, the more people will be open to the What and the How.

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

4. Stay publicly loyal

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

It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, he’ll probably hear about it. He’s not dumb. So not only will you compromise your personal integrity when you do that, you’ll also lose his respect.

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

Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.

5. Be a part of the solution

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

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

Be the most helpful you can be.

Volunteer to do the leg work.

Bring your best ideas to the table every day.

Offer to assist in any way you can.

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

So be part of the solution.

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

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

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

Non-senior leaders, what would you add?

Senior leaders, what other advice would you give?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can have healthier conversations, 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.

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

———

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

 

prayer works

Why Christians Should Stop Saying “Prayer Works” (And 2 Other Things)

One reason people stay away from Christianity is not because they don’t know any Christians.

It’s often because they do.

Our actions and our words as followers of Jesus have the power to attract or repel people from Christianity.

The number of people who never go to church or follow Jesus keeps growing. And their thinking keeps changing too (I’ve outlined 15 characteristics of unchurched people here).

So what can we do about it?

Well, in addition to modeling humility, grace, truth, love and so many other things that describe the earliest Christ followers, we Christians can watch our words.

This post was originally inspired by a piece by Scott Dannemiller wrote, in which Dannemiller urged Christians to stop saying “feeling blessed” whenever something good came their way. He makes a thoughtful, insightful argument around that.

In that vein, here are three other things Christians should really stop saying.

prayer works

1. Prayer works

Should we really stop saying that prayer works?

Well, yes and no.

Most people who say prayer works these days really mean God did what I wanted him to do. As if prayer was a button to be pushed to release exactly what they wanted from the vending machine.

Prayer is not a button to be pushed; it’s a relationship to be pursued.

Prayer does ‘work,; but it works very differently than we’d like. It still ‘works:’

When we can’t trace out any direct result from our prayer.

When the opposite of what we prayed for happens.

In those moments when we feel very distant from God.

When we bang down the door of heaven for years and are not sure anything is going on up there at all.

There are scores of people inside and outside the church whose spirits are crushed because they prayed (fervently) and:

They didn’t get the job.

Their mom died of cancer.

Their child was born without a heartbeat.

They ended up in a car crash that left them permanently disabled.

Prayer doesn’t ‘work’ because I got what I wanted and they didn’t.

The parade of saints across the centuries would have been shocked to see prayer reduced to God-doing-what-I-asked-him-to-do-when-I-asked-him-to-do-it. God is not a puppy to be trained or a chef in the kitchen who prepares food to suit our every whim. He is sovereign.

As Richard Foster says:

For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer—nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.

Do things happen supernaturally when we pray? Well, yes they do. But often in ways we cannot understand or even trace out.

I think Christians can take consolation in the fact that when we pray, we often don’t know what to pray for or even how to pray, yet the scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit will translate the prayer into something better than we could phrase in the moment.

So pour your heart out to God. Pray about the things the scripture says are close to God’s heart. And when something ‘goes your way,’ be grateful and offer it back to the God who gave it to you.

And when things don’t go your way, understand that God is still very much in control and very much loves you. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean God is absent.

2. God told me to …

Often, you hear people (and pastors) say things that start with, “God told me to … .”

The longer I follow Jesus, the more hesitant I am to say God told me to do anything specific. Maybe that’s an issue I need to work on, but it springs from my observation that I’ve seen this misused far more than I’ve seen it used well or authentically.

In fact, I’ve often noticed that the more outrageous the claim, the more likely someone is to say, “God told me to … .”

When I hear someone claim God told them to do something, I feel like saying:

God told you to do that? Really? God himself spoke directly to you and told you to specifically build that building for which you have zero money? Or leave that church that you were in deep conflict with without resolving things? Or buy that house that’s way out of your price range? Wow!

Are you sure it wasn’t the pizza? Or the voice in your head that often tells you to do the things you simply feel like doing?

For the record, I believe there are times when God does speak to people today. But let’s be realistic. What made me put this phrase on the list is the number of times I have heard the phrase used to describe a decision that is:

Selfishly motivated (come on, admit it … you’re justifying your impulses).

Contrary to scripture (the scriptures pretty clearly suggest that what you’re doing is sinful … or at least isn’t wise).

Designed to shut down debate (does anyone really think they can win a “God told me” debate?).

I’m not saying God never tell us anything directly, but I am suggesting it happens far less than most of us claim.

So what’s a better course?

Say something like, “Based on what I know from scripture, I believe this is the best/boldest/wisest course of action.”

That makes sense. And then you can have an intelligent discussion.

And you don’t pull the God card to justify something about which Christians and others can have a legitimate discussion.

Or, if you’re just trying to shut down debate, just be honest. I wanted to do it, so I did it. There. Now you said it and everyone will feel better.

If you’re dead honest, you might even realize you made a crazy decision.

3. I could really feel God’s presence

You’ve heard this before. We live in an emotional age and we’ve arrived at a place where many of us feel like we’ve become mini-authorities on when God is present and when God is not.

But analyze that.

The truth is, we tend to feel God’s presence more:

When the band played our favourite song.

When the band played five of our favourite songs in a row.

When the room was packed.

When the decision went our way.

When we felt happy during our quiet time.

Is God only present when we feel him?

Or better yet, is God’s presence synonymous with our ability to detect it?

Well, of course not.

So why do we insist on speaking like it is?

Nowhere did God promise that the Holy Spirit is a feeling or an emotion.

Jesus did explain to us that the Spirit is a Person and moves freely. The Holy Spirit is bigger than our emotions and not subject to our editorial commentary about whether he is present or not.

I have had moments when I believe I felt the presence of God palpably.

But God is just as present:

On our worst days as he is on our best days.

When we are uncomfortable as when we are comfortable.

When we are hurting as when we are healing.

And sometimes … the room was just full, and the band was just really good.

We need to learn to trust in God’s presence especially in those moments we suspect he’s absent.

What if?

What if Christians started having more intelligent, less consumer-oriented, deeper conversations with people?

What if our relationship with Christ was grounded more deeply in God’s character and less in the constantly shifting circumstances we see around us?

I’m thinking the dialogue inside and outside the church would be so much healthier for it.

What do you think?

Any other things Christians should stop saying now? Scroll down and leave a comment!

Want More?

If you want more on how your church can relate to a constantly changing culture, I wrote about it 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 main stream but in my view can still help leaders. I actually lost this article from my site two years ago in a site redesign along with another one I just re-published. Fortunately, ChurchLeaders.com had also featured it and it’s great to be able to re-run it on this site. —Carey

learn about you as a leader

What People Learn About You as a Leader Without You Saying A Word

As a leader, people are always anxious to figure out who you really are.

It’s understandable. A leader’s primary commodity is trust. People follow leaders they trust. Violate that trust, and people stop following you.

Many leaders talk a good game. And that’s understandable.

Yet habits and actions reveal more about any leader than words. And that’s what people study. As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” And that’s exceptionally true in leadership. 

So what actions are people looking at? What are they really studying to see whether you are a good leader to follow?

In my experience, there are at least 5 things that reveal who you really are as a leader. It’s also easy to overlook these 5 things, or to convince yourself that what you say will compensate for what you do if what you do falls short.

Yet nothing a leader says eventually outweighs what a leader does. Your actions—not your words—create your leadership and your legacy.

without using words

So what should you be watching as a leader?

1. Whether you deliver on your promises

You never need to open your mouth for your team to determine whether they can trust you.

Trust, after all, is confidence.

The best way to establish confidence as a leader is to do what you said you’re going to do when you said you’re going to do it.

The challenge, of course, is that’s much harder to do than it seems.

Be careful about what you promise.

Be even more careful about how you deliver. It is far better to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to offer assurances that mean nothing.

And if you mess up, own up. People respect that.

And then do everything in your power not to repeat the same mistake again.

2. Whether you truly value your family or their family

I was talking to a leader the other week who was trying to figure out how much time to take off when there was so much to do at his rapidly growing church.

As we discussed this, it occurred to me that how he valued his family would signal whether he wanted his staff to value their families.

Most team members want a senior leader to go home at night to see his family.

The late night, early morning and all weekend emails actually discourage your staff.  So do the seven day work weeks.

Even if you tell your staff “you take time off, I need to work,” they rarely feel secure in taking that time off.

Unfortunately, it took me years to learn that my working longer hours communicates to the team that it’s never safe for them to take time off.

How you value your family signals to your team whether you value their families.

3. What your real priorities are

You don’t need to tell people what your true priorities are; they can see them.

Often there’s a disconnect in many leaders’ minds between what they think their priorities are and what they actually are.

What reveals your real priorities?

What you spend your time on.

What you spend your money on.

What you measure.

What you reward.

You can say someone or something is important, but if you never fund it, never spend time on it, never assess results or reward progress, people will rightly conclude it’s not a priority.

If you say reaching young families is a priority but you budget $500 a year for it and refuse to put your best staff or volunteers on the project, it’s not a priority.

As a leader, your calendar and your organizational budget reveal what you value most.

4. Whether people matter to you

Leaders juggle so many issues that it’s hard to not be constantly distracted or pre-occupied when talking to someone.

It’s easy to become a leader who brushes people off, looks impatient and simply sees people as a means to an end.

People aren’t a means to an end; they’re actually the end. Ultimately, we’re all in the people business.

When you meet someone, ask yourself:

Did you stop? 

Did you listen?

Did you look them in the eye?

Did you follow up?

How you treat people is a sign that they matter. Or a sign they don’t.

5. What you’re really like when the pressure’s on

Most of us like to grade ourselves on our good days or on our average days.

And that sets the tone of a lot of your leadership.

But what do people really watch for?

How you handle things on bad days.

How you responded during your last crisis will tell you exactly where your character is at.

Most of us will look back to the last crisis and wince. But that’s okay: it establishes the baseline from which progress needs to be made.

Crisis reveals character, and, as much as you wish it wasn’t true, your team is watching you intensely on your bad days.

What Else?

If you want more on character, heart, health and leadership, I wrote a full chapter about it in my best selling church leadership book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, what do you look for in other leaders?

And what do you look for in yourself?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

sermons are boring

7 Real Reasons Your Sermons, Writing or Ideas Are Boring

If there’s one thing you never set out to be as a leader or communicator, it’s boring.

And yet everyone who communicates, preaches or even tries to persuade someone of an idea has discovered that sinking sense that you’ve lost your audience.

How exactly does that happen?

I’ve been communicating professionally since I was 16 years old in radio, law and for the last two decades, preaching and speaking, and over the years have become a student of what engages people and what doesn’t.

I learned the principles below because at one point or another, I violated all of them.

Here are 7 factors that disengage an audience that are so easy to miss if you’re not looking for them.

boring sermons

1. You haven’t understood or empathized with your audience

There is no such thing as a ‘generic’ audience; you really can’t connect with your audience if you don’t understand them.

Recently I spent some time with a friend talking about a conference we’re both speaking at.

Because I knew the audience better than he did, he spent 40 minutes asking me exactly who would be in the audience, what their hopes and fears are, what they struggle with and how he should approach them.

I was amazed by this for a few reasons.

First, my friend is a multiple New York Times bestselling author and speaks to large influential audiences all the time. If anyone could just waltz in and speak, he could.

Second, even though he has far more offers to speak than he can possibly accept, he is infinitely interested in the audiences he speaks to.

The fact that he’s so in demand, so good at what he does and that he cares deeply about his audience is likely all connected.

The more deeply you care about your audience, the more deeply they’ll care about what you say.

2. Focusing on what people need to know, not on what people want to know

There’s a tension for every communicator between talking to people about what they want to know and talking to people about what they need to know.

If you want to draw a crowd, it’s easy to focus on what people want to know.

But every communicator knows sometimes you just need to tell people what they need to know, even if they don’t want to hear it.

That’s an especial challenge for preachers.

If you always preach about what people want to know, you’ll likely miss what people need to know.

If you only focus on what people need to know, people have a way of tuning you out.

When people tune you out, it might not be evidence that you’re being faithful (as many preachers claim). It might just be evidence you’re being ineffective

So what do you do?

Here’s where I’ve landed. I try to discern what people want, and then I deliver what people need.

For example, few people want to hear about what the Bible has to say about money or sex.

But as a communicator, if I drill down on why God gave us instruction in this area and look for the benefit God intends to bring to people’s lives through it, I’ve then isolated what people will want to hear and can better deliver what they need to hear.

3. You haven’t described a problem people want to solve

The problem with a lot of communication is that it doesn’t start with a problem.

Too often, communicators or writers just start.

Your audience is asking one question: why should I listen? Why should I read further? I have problems to solve and you’re not helping me.

Counter that explicitly.

If almost always start any talk I’m doing describing a problem people face—at work, at home, in their relationship with God or in their relationship with each other.

How do you do that? Describe the problem in detail: ie. You’re so frustrated with God because He says he’s a God of love, but you read the Old Testament and beg to differ. And you wonder if you can even trust a God like that.

If you really want people to drill down on the issues, take the next step. Make the problem worse. Describe it in such detail that people are no longer sure there’s a solution to it.

If you want to see this in action, I spend the first ten minutes of my message on violence in the Old Testament explaining the problem and then ‘making it worse’ before I address it.

You can watch that message here.

4. You didn’t expressed an old idea in a fresh way

For the record, Solomon was right, there isn’t anything new under the sun.

None of us truly speaks about anything new.

As a result, it’s easy to fall into cliches and common descriptions of issues everyone’s trying to address.

For example, I almost called point 2 of this blog post “You’re answering questions nobody is asking.” But I realized that as you skimmed the article you would think “I’ve heard that a thousand times” and tune out.

So I changed the expression of the point to “Focusing on what people need to know, not on what people want to know.”

It’s a little fresher.

Again, that’s not a brand new idea, but it’s a more unique expression of it.

If your ideas are simply retreads of other people’s ideas, people will tune out.

5. You haven’t crafted your words well enough to make them memorable

I spoke to a couple a few weeks ago about a series I preached four years ago.

They’re in their twenties, so that’s almost one fifth of their life in the past.

They quoted the bottom line of that series to me and asked me to use it again at their wedding.

The bottom line was simply this: Like is an emotion. Love is a decision. 

It’s hard to believe someone remembers something you said four years earlier, but it happens.

They then told me they want their life together to be built on a decision to love each other, not an emotion they’re feeling. What’s so powerful to me as a pastor is that single line contained the direction for an entire six part series whose ideas they were able to recall. (If you’re wondering, that isn’t available online right now. It might be again soon.)

The power of carefully crafted phrases is that they’re memorable, and memorable phrases keep going to work years after you’ve finished speaking them.

How do you craft memorable phrases? I outline the process here.

6. You don’t personally own the message

There was a season when cool church was enough.

But people are tired of slick. They’re suspicious of polish.

In many ways, authentic is the new cool.

One of the keys to authenticity is personally owning everything you say. People want to know you believe what you’re saying.

In a world of spin where so much is sold, people are looking for real.

Be real.

When you own the message—when it comes from the core of who you are—it resonates.

So own your message.

That means you’ve processed it deeply enough that it has become part of who are, not just something you say.

7. You’re relying too heavily on your notes

In public speaking, people won’t believe you own the message if you’re reading it.

It comes across as a press release. Or a statement someone else prepared. Or something you think they should believe, but you don’t believe yourself.

I know that’s tough for people who are tied to manuscripts.

Please hear me: reading from your notes doesn’t mean you’re insincere, it just means people often think you are.

So is there help? You bet.

If you want to learn how to free yourself from speaking with notes, I shared a 5 step method on how to do that here. It’s exactly how I got freed up from my notes.

Want the heart of it?

It’s this: don’t memorize your talk. Understand it.

You don’t memorize your conversations before you have them because you understand them.

So understand your next talk.

You can always talk about things you understand.

Want More?

Personally, my go-to resource for learning how to improve my preaching has become Preaching Rocket (affiliate link). I have learned so much from Jeff Henderson and the team there over the years.

If you want to sample Preaching Rocket for free,  you can check out their free 7 day free trial offer here.

In the meantime, let’s share some learning. What are some other things you’ve seen that lose an audience?

emotions

5 Things Great Leaders Know About Their Emotions That Others Don’t

Emotions.

Some days you orobably think it would be better if you could lead without them.

You get excited about a new idea only to become discouraged when no one else thinks it’s a great idea…or it doesn’t work.

As a church leader, you spend most of Monday wishing Sunday had been different, and it’s rarely healthy.

You get one nasty email and it ruins your day week.

Your bad day at work becomes a bad night at home.

Your mood dictates too much of the tone at the office.

Misunderstood and unaddressed emotions sink more leadership potential than most of us realize.

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

And yet emotions are absolutely necessary for great leaders.

So how do you manage your emotions?

There are 5 practices effective leaders adopt when it comes to their emotions. Knowing them can make a huge difference in your leadership.

emotions

So what do effective leaders do with their emotions?

Well, great leaders:

1. Never let today’s emotions drive tomorrow’s decisions

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

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

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

You said terrible things.

You fired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You hired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You lost your temper in a meeting.

You broke up.

You ate too much.

You drove so fast you got a killer ticket.

You almost quit.

You did quit.

Wise leaders know that. They realize that rash things they do today impact tomorrow.

They have come to realize that no matter how they feel in the moment, a good night’s sleep, some prayer, discussing the matter with wise friends and even some distance will make for a better decision down the road.

I had to learn this the hard way, but it’s such a good principle: Don’t make tomorrow’s decision on today’s emotions.

2. Refuse to let emotions distort reality

Emotions distort reality.

It’s never as bad as you think when you’re emotional. And it’s likely not as great as you think either.

Emotions make you see negative things more negatively than you should, and positive things even more positively than you should.

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

Time is your friend when it comes to making wise decisions. Putting a little distance between your emotions and your decisions is a great strategy.

So is wise counsel. Great leaders trust the judgment of other people as much as they trust their own.

And when they’re emotional, they trust the judgment of others more than they trust their own.

3. Won’t let emotions spawn selfish behaviour

Bad days or bad emotions are most often fueled by pain.

A stinging email triggers a deep hurt. A bad staff situation eats away at your joy. A season without momentum erodes your self-confidence.

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

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

People in pain:

Don’t listen well to others.

Withdraw and sulk.

Blame others.

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

Want others to share their misery or sadness.

Seek attention.

And selfish leaders are never effective leaders.

Effective leaders know that.

The best way to get rid of your selfishness is to get rid of your pain.

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

4. Let emotions fuel passion

Emotion isn’t all bad.

After all, who wants to follow an emotionless leader?

In fact, when you look at churches that are doing a great job of reaching adults under 35, passion is an indisputable characteristic (here are the other 4). Passion is directly fueled by emotion and is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to fake.

Consequently, great leaders realize there is no sustained or contagious passion without emotion.

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

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

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

Effective leaders are emotional, but they ensure that the emotions that drive them in leadership are the emotions that positively impact others.

5. Keep their hearts fully engaged

Your heart gets beat up in leadership, and as a result it’s easy to pull your heart back. To never engage. To stop trusting. To withdraw.

Effective leaders simply don’t do that.

They realized that the great leaders push past the hurt, the cynicism and the pain and keep their hearts fully engaged.

They decide to hope again, to trust again and to believe again.

Why? Because when your heart is engaged and alive, you become a better leader.

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

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

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

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

And if you think your heart isn’t, here are some signs it might be burn out and some resources to help you get your heart back.

What Are You Learning?

If you want to drill deeper, I wrote more about the impact of emotions on leadership in my best-selling book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

Managing your emotions in leadership is one of the things that distinguishes great leaders from the rest.

What are you learning about managing your emotions as a leader?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Church shoppers

5 Key Differences Between Church Shoppers and the Unchurched

Every week you hope to have new people at your church.

But there’s a world of difference between reaching the unchurched and attracting serial church shoppers.

I’m fortunate to be part of a church where we’ve had first-time guests every single weekend since we launched eight years ago.

While it’s easy to think of a visitor as simply a ‘visitor,’ not all visitors are the same.

Like many of you, our goal is to reach the unchurched. And in nearly every community, there’s a growing number of unchurched people to reach.

But there’s another group entirely that shows up at your church regularly: church shoppers.

Serial church shoppers are not the same as the family that moved and is looking for a church in their new community who might try five churches before settling. Nor are they the same as family that is leaving a church they’ve been part of for years, has exited well (here are some thoughts on how to do that) and is looking for a new place to call home for a long time.

Families moving to your community and Christians who transfer well out of another church can be welcome additions to any local church.

But serial church shoppers are different. They’re consumers.

If you end up facing a true church shopper, you might discover that they’ve been to 5 different churches in the last 10 years, and will soon have another one (that’s not yours).  Or you might discover they’ve never settled down anywhere and have 3 churches they sample regularly, when it’s convenient.

As a leader, being aware of the difference between church shoppers and who you truly want to reach is critical.

I have seen far too many church leaders waste time and energy trying to please church shoppers, to no avail. Do it regularly, and it will take you completely off mission.

Trying to appease a serial church shopper is an exercise in pleasing the un-pleasable.

Here are 5 key differences between church shoppers and the unchurched every church leader should know to ensure your church stays on mission.

Church shoppers1. Church shoppers think their job is to evaluate; the unchurched are looking to learn

A church shopper comes into every church with an evaluation mindset.

Is this my kind of music?

Is the preaching good?

Did the people notice me?

Do I like this place?

It’s not that unchurched people don’t ask the same questions. They do. And be honest. To some extent, we all do.

But a church shopper thinks the church exists to please them. After all, that’s why they left the last eight churches.

An unchurched person might start with evaluation, but they ultimately don’t stay there. They want to learn. They want to grow. They want to challenge and explore, and most are very open to a much deeper journey than one that starts and ends with evaluation.

Church shoppers ask, “Did I like it?” And the moment they don’t, they’re done.

If you really boil it down, serial church shoppers think their mission is to criticize, not contribute.

2. Church shoppers move quickly from love to hate; the unchurched warm up to you gradually

It’s not uncommon to have a church shopper tell you how much they love love love your church on the first Sunday.

But over the years I’ve seen this pattern: people who love your church immediately and go out of their way to tell you how it’s the best thing ever rarely feel that way for long.

In fact, they often end up disliking your church just as strongly. And they’re vocal about it.

The unchurched (and healthy Christian transfer growth) is different. They might like your service, but they’re a little more reserved in getting involved or even letting their heart buy in.

In my experience, the people who begin a little cautiously or at least moderately and who gradually warm up turn out to be the healthiest church members in the long run.

Contrast that with a church shopper. Sometimes it seems like everything church shoppers love about your church today they will dislike tomorrow.

3. Church shoppers want your church to be like the last church (that they left); unchurched people don’t

I continue to be amazed at how often a church shopper will tell you how much they didn’t like their last church but then ask you why your church isn’t more like that church.

Our old church had a men’s ministry.

Our old church had more singable music.

Our old church had far more mid-week activities happening.

Which makes me want to ask: “Then why did you leave?”

It’s actually a good question.

The unchurched, if they have any concept of a ‘last church’ are usually opposed to some stereotype of church that revolves around judgmental preaching, boring services and outdated methods.

Often they’re railing against a straw man from the last generation. And they appreciate the alternative you’ve created.

4. Church shoppers blame the church when things go wrong; the unchurched take responsibility

Somehow, the fact that a church shopper doesn’t like any church never seems to be their fault.

It’s always the church that lets them down.

In preparing to write this post, I put feelers out on social media, asking what frustrations people experience with church shoppers. Jason Stockdale, who pastors the three month old Hills Church in Memphis, shared this story from another ministry he was part of:

A couple had been to 4-5 churches over the last 2 years, I followed up with their “connection card” when they visited. They claimed they never could get “connected” at any other church, but really liked our church the few times they had been. Proceeded to then tell me the son plays competitive baseball 6-7 months out of the year and the dad often travels with him on the weekends, the daughter plays competitive volleyball and soccer (pretty much year around) and the mom travels on the weekend with her. The mom worked nights as a nurse so they had no nights during the week available to get connected in a group and were rarely ever going to be at church together as a family.

I did everything I could to get them involved in one of our Sunday morning small group classes we offered, they lasted about 6 months and then he called me one day and said they were going to start looking for another church, they just didn’t feel connected to ours.

I think every church leader can relate. Sure, shift work is tough, but there are other choices in the mix that might have prompted more introspection and ownership.

Sadly, I suspect the pattern for this family might repeat itself again and again.

Why is it the people you do the most for are the people who claim you failed them?

In my experience, the unchurched, by contrast, take far more responsibility if things don’t work out. They’ll say “Hey, I’m just not sure this is the right thing for me. Keep doing what you’re doing. But I think I’m out.”

Sure, that’s disappointing, but it’s healthy.

Before we leave the subject of responsibility, here are 5 things people blame the church for…but shouldn’t.

5. Church shoppers want to lead THEIR ministry; unchurched people want to get involved in THE ministry

If a church shopper gets involved for a season, they’ll often want to lead THEIR ministry rather than get involved with your ministry.

Maybe it’s a group or something they did at their old church, or a special cause they’re passionate about.

Often with serial church shoppers, ministry involvement is more about them than it is about the mission.

Unchurched people are usually fine getting involved with the wider mission of the church. They’re content with finding their part in a larger story. They don’t have to be the story.

What Do You See?

Am I saying that ALL church shoppers are unhealthy and ALL unchurched people are healthy?

No.

There’s likely a story under some serial church shoppers’ experience that explains the behaviour.

And is every unchurched person healthy?

No, not at all.

But I will take a genuinely unchurched person over a serial church shopper any day, not just because that relationship is far more on mission, but because it actually has the potential to change a life.

Serial church shoppers are more interested in changing a church than they are in changing their life.

Here’s to staying on mission. And if some serial church shoppers settle down in the process, that’s amazing.

In the meantime, what has you spinning your wheels when you could be reaching the unchurched instead?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

church culture

A 5 Step Guide on How to Create An Amazing Church Culture

Every church has a culture. Yours does. Mine does.

If the culture is healthy, amazing things happen.

People love being there.

People grow.

Great leaders come and stay.

Your church becomes attractive to the community and more fully accomplishes its mission

 But sadly, for many churches, the culture isn’t healthy.

Culture is invisible but determinative. You can’t see it, but it defines so much.

A bad culture will consistently undermine an amazing mission, vision and strategy.

As Peter Drucker is quoted as saying, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Think about it:

Culture is the reason you love shopping in some stores and despise shopping in others.

It’s why you love some airlines and pass on others.

It’s why some families always have fun when they’re together and others can’t stand to be in the same room.

So the question becomes: how do you create an amazing culture?

church culture

I’ve worked hard on creating a better church culture over the years.

As I’ve gotten healthier, our church has gotten healthier.

Two years ago we finally wrote down six cultural values at Connexus Church, where I serve.  It took us a year to define what those values were. You can access them here (scroll down when you reach the page), and I’m emailing a PDF copy to everyone on my email list if prefer your own version (subscribe to my email list here). I also preached through our cultural values in this weekend series called Doing Time.

So how did we get there?

We started with a one day off-site where our leadership team brainstormed around some of the concepts outlined below. Then, for about an hour or two each month during our leadership team meetings, we refined the concepts and the language behind our values until we came up with our final six.

Throughout the process, two resources were particularly helpful for us:

Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage

Andy Stanley’s two-part Leadership Podcast episode, Defining Your Organization’s Culture.

Although this resource wasn’t around two years ago, Craig Groeschel has a fantastic new leadership podcast and his most recent episode is on creating a values-driven culture. It’s a must-listen.

Capturing your organization’s culture is helpful because it allows you to reproduce it and export it as you grow. If your culture is healthy, it will become one of your greatest assets.

If you want an easy way to acclimatize every new staff member, board member, volunteer or person to your organization, having defined, memorable and repeatable values is one of the most effective ways to do it.  If your organization’s cultural values are NOT written down, acclimatizing new team members can take a year, or actually, it might never happen.

You can cut that time in less than half and double the buy-in by having your culture defined. Having a healthy, exportable culture is a key to every effective organization’s growth.

What follows is a 5 step guide on how to create a healthy church culture that echoes throughout your organization, even if you’re starting with a bad culture.

Step 1: Identify and eliminate the toxins

Church culture isn’t naturally healthy because people aren’t naturally healthy.

As a leader, one of your chief jobs is to figure out why your culture isn’t healthy and change that.

Look for the toxins that are making your culture unhealthy.

Conflict, selfishness, personal agendas or even toxins like a lack of passion for the mission can be lethal in a church.

If you want to drill down further, I outline 6 warning signs that your church culture is toxic in this post. And I outline 6 early warning signs that a person is toxic in this post.

You can’t eliminate what you don’t identify, so identify the things you want gone from your culture.

Step 2: Model the change you want to see

Here’s a sobering reality for all of us who lead: your church will only be as healthy as you are.

Expecting a church to be healthy when its leader isn’t is like expecting an athlete to run a marathon with a missing heart. It’s not possible.

Any conversation about church health starts in the mirror for a leader.

As I discuss in detail in my book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, healthy leaders produce healthy churches.  The healthier you are as a leader, the healthier your church will be.

The same goes with all the change you want to see.

As a leader, you need to embody the things you want your organization to embody.

Want to see a church that invites people on Sundays? Then invite people on Sundays.

Want to see a church that gives generously? Then give generously.

Want to see a church that has deep passion for the mission? Then exude passion.

You see the point.

As a leader, culture starts with you.

Step 3: Start with WHO embodies your values

So how do you find your values? There are a lot of words in the English language. You have to choose just a few of them to define you.

Further more, how do you avoid meaningless platitudes like “Value Excellence” which sound great but practically mean nothing.

On that first off-site day we did, I had a spontaneous thought that ended up moving our team forward immensely.

Rather than start with what we valued, I decided to start with who embodied the best of our church.

Let me explain.

I went to the whiteboard and asked “Of all the people who attend our church, who best embodies what we’re about and WANT to be about in the future?”

Immediately, names started coming to all of us. I wrote them down.

Your church has these people too: they are amazing. They are all you want to see in a church member and more.

Then I asked a simple question: “Why? What is about them that makes them the embodiment of our mission, vision and strategy?”

I’ll come back to those answers in Step 4.

But before we move on, I also created a second list.

Next we made a list of people who, honestly, didn’t embody our mission, vision and values, or to put it more positively, who are the people we would need to really encourage along in order to get them in line with our real mission? We actually wrote their names down (and then I burned the list).

And we asked the same question: “Why? What is it about them that makes them the opposite of what we want to accomplish?”

I know that’s dangerous.

Maybe it’s even sinful.

But it’s true. And you know it’s true.

And it was SO clarifying.

Figuring out who you value helps you discover what you value.

Step 4: Isolate the unique principles

Figuring out why some people embodied our mission, vision and strategy and why some people didn’t was a break through for us. It helped us get to the values that we, frankly, valued. And those we didn’t.

When I asked our team why the people who best embodied what we’re about and WANT to be about in the future were their top choices, the team started saying things like:

Because they serve so selflessly

Because it’s not about them

Because they are so generous

Because they are always considerate of other people

Because they make it happen

Because they are all about our common mission, vision and strategy

Those were the first clues as to what our cultural values were.

“Make it Happen” actually made it to the list of final values a year later. We just love people who are willing to do what it takes no matter what the obstacle, and we didn’t want to lose that value as we grew.

Similarly, when I asked our team why the people who didn’t embody our mission, vision and strategies make it on the list, our team started saying things like:

Because it’s always about them

Because they criticize but don’t contribute

Because they don’t actually value unchurched people

Because they want to be served, rather than serve

Again, that helped us understand what our values were.

Try it. On a sheet of paper write the names of ten people who embody what your church is all about and what you WANT it to be about. And then write down why.  Do the same for people who AREN’T what your church is all about, and again, write down why.

You will learn a ton about what you value. Then burn the lists and save the principles.

For a few hours each month, we chiselled away at the principles we unearthed that day until a year later, after a lot of debate, discussion and prayer, we had our final six values.

Step 5: Create memorable, exportable language

It’s one thing to know what your values are as an organization.

It’s another to phrase them as a way that’s memorable and exportable.

In our case, we decided to create a two word phrases for each value (i.e. “Battle Mediocrity”) followed by a question (i.e. “Am I allowing what is good to stand in the way of being great?”).

Having 6 two-word phrases allows the values to slip into every day language, and the question makes the application personal.

We also wanted the values to be both prescribe and describe our church. In other words, we want it to be accurate enough that people say “for sure, that’s you,” but aspirational enough that it keeps us motivated to keep getting better.

However you do it, having short, memorable phrases will help the values spread through your organization.

It means you can bring new staff and volunteers up to speed much faster and that as you expand, what you value will remain shared.

Does sharing your values this way work? Well, as I mentioned, our values proved so popular with our volunteers (who kept telling us they wished their workplace/family operated the same way) that I ended up preaching through them on the weekend. You can watch the Doing Time series here or listen via podcast.

What Have You Learned?

That’s what I’ve learned about how to define and reproduce cultural values.

Again, I’ll email out the PDF of our cultural values (including a frameable artistic version we did for our church) later this week to my subscribers. You can get that by subscribing here.

What are you learning? Scroll down and leave a comment.

church culture is toxic

6 Warning Signs Your Church Culture is Toxic

Every church has a culture. But how do you know if your church culture is toxic?

More importantly, how would you know whether you’re creating a toxic church culture as a leader?

I’ve interacted with many church leaders (and readers of this blog) and the sad reality is that there is no shortage of toxic church culture stories and experiences.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it certainly isn’t always that way.

Leaders are the architects of culture.

You create a culture whether you intend to or not.

Part of shaping a healthy culture is being aware of the signs of toxic culture and the signs of health.  I blogged about the early warning signs that a person may be toxic here. But organizations have different signs than individuals do.

So how do you know if your church culture is toxic? Believe it or not, the Bible gives incredible practical advice. The longer I lead, the more I use Galatians 5: 16-23 as a health check for me personally and for anything I lead. It describes what’s healthy and what’s not, for me as a leader and for the church.

Below, I outline 6 warning signs that are practical applications of that text.

By the way, this is part 1 of a 2 part series on culture that I’ll conclude later this week.

My next post will be on how to create a healthy church culture, and later this week, I’ll email a free PDF of our mission, vision and cultural values at Connexus Church, where I serve, to everyone on my email list. If you want to connect by email, you can sign up to my email list for free here.

In the meantime, here are 6 signs your church culture in toxic.

church culture toxic

1. The politicians win

One sure sign of a toxic culture is that you have to play politics to get anything done.

You know things have gotten political in your church when:

Decisions rarely get made the way they’re supposed to be made.

Most decisions happen outside of meetings or any agreed-upon process.

You can’t get a yes without offering something in return.

You have to continually lobby to be heard.

If you’re always jockeying, lobbying and courting favour to get the right decision made, it’s a sign your organization is unhealthy.

In the local church, having to play politics to win is a sure sign there’s sin.

When you do what you say you’re going to do the way you said you’re going to do it, you bring health to an organization.

2. What gets said publicly is different from what happened privately

Another sign things are becoming toxic is when what gets said publicly is different than what happened privately.

When there’s spin on every issue and nothing can be said publicly without ‘agreeing’ on what gets said first, things are bad.

For sure, there are times where a situation is delicate and you will want to ‘agree’ on what gets said publicly to honour everyone involved, but in too many organizations few things that get done privately can be announced the same way publicly.

And to be sure…when you’re crafting any kind of a public statement, you want to pay attention to the words you use and perhaps even find agreement on them.

But the end product should never be the opposite or even different than what actually happened

I have good fortune of being part of several healthy organizations. I love it when people pull me aside and ask (in hushed tones), “So what’s the real story?” and I get to tell them “Actually, that is the real story.”

Living in that kind of culture really helps you sleep at night too.

3. You deal with conflict by talking about people, not to people

The golden rule of conflict is this: talk to the person you have an issue with, not about them.

In too many churches and organizations, the opposite is true.

People talk about people rather than to them.

The church should be the BEST organization in the world in dealing with conflict. Often, we can be the worst.

The next time you want to talk about someone (i.e. gossip), talk to them instead. If you can’t or won’t, there’s something wrong. Pay attention to that.

Want to know what’s wrong most of the time? You’re gossiping. That’s what’s wrong.

Trying to resolve conflict by gossiping about the person you’re angry with is like trying to extinguish a fire with jet fuel. It only inflames things.

Sure, occasionally you need advice from a friend about how to approach a situation. When I’m in that situation, I try to assume the person we’re talking about will hear everything I say. Even if they don’t, the fact that they could speaks volumes.

Do I always get it right? No, but it’s a great integrity check, and I try to live by it.

If you want more, I outline 7 steps for dealing with conflict in a healthy way in this post.

4. Church fights are normal

Conflict is normal. Church fights shouldn’t be.

Yet so many congregations are in perpetual fighting mode. One day it’s the music. The next it’s the carpet. The next it’s some staff member everyone ganged up on.

Failure to get point #3 right above is the way churches come to see fights as normal.

Another reason churches fight regularly is because personal preferences have trumped organizational mission.

Essentially, members decide that what they want is more important than what others want or the church needs to make progress.

When that happens, it essentially pits one selfish person or group against others.

And when that happens, everything dissolves.

If your church is in conflict there should zero mystery as to why it isn’t growing.

5. There’s an entrenched ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality

The church should always be a ‘we,’ not an ‘us’ and ‘them.’

Fundamentally, being a Christian causes us to die to ourselves and rise to something bigger than ourselves.

Some Christians forget that.

Whether the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality exists between factions in your church or between your church and the community, it’s always fatal to health and growth.

The job of a leader is to raise vision high enough and urgently enough for all of us to become bigger than any of us.

United, the church will always accomplish more than we will divided.

6. No one takes responsibility

So who’s going to fix your church?

No one.

Someone.

Anybody but me.

As long as things are someone else’s fault, things will never get better.

A final sign your church is toxic is that no one takes responsibility. Instead, people just blame everyone else.

You can blame the culture, the pastor, the leader or anybody, but until you take responsibility, things will never get better.

Blame is the opposite of responsibility. Leaders who stop the blame cycle and take responsibility have the potential to usher in real change.

But, you say…”I’m not responsible for all of it.” True.

But you’re likely responsible for some of it. Own what you can. Own all you can.

If no one else does, still take responsibility.

You’ll get healthier. And if they don’t, you’ll leave and will eventually join a healthier church.

Health attracts health.

Want More?

Want more?

Craig Groeschel has a fantastic podcast episode on culture you can listen to here.

I’ll finish up the conversation in my next post, and remember if you’re interested in our culture values as a church (in which we try to seed health), just subscribe to my free email list here.

In the meantime, what are some signs of a toxic culture you see?

How would you make it better?