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reaching the next generation

5 Surprising Characteristics of Churches That Are Actually Reaching the Next Generation

Everyone talks about reaching the next generation of young adults.

But what really makes a church effective in reaching the next generation?

I’ve visited a few churches this year that are doing a fantastic job at reaching 18-30 year olds—a vastly under-represented demographic in most churches.

I took notes at all the churches. They all shared surprising characteristics, even though they are incredibly diverse.

The surprise (at least for me)?

It wasn’t their model that made them effective. The churches I studied have different models.

It wasn’t their denomination. One was Roman Catholic and attracting tons of young families. Others were cutting edge conservative evangelical church plants.

It wasn’t their facility. Some were portable. Some were permanent.

In many ways, these churches are bending the rule book established by the mega churches of the 90s and 2000s.

Here are 5 things I’ve seen in churches that are killing it with people in their 20s and 30s:

reaching the next generation

1. Passion over Polish

If you attend enough conferences, you can think that you need polish to pull off effective ministry. Another $50,000 in lights or sound and you’ll be good.

The effective churches I’ve visited and seen recently by no means had the best lights, stage or production. Some had almost no stage and no lights, while others had a pretty decent package, but not nearly the level you see at some churches.

What did they all have in common? Passion.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

It’s not that polish is bad, but I think it’s increasingly trumped by a raw authenticity that exudes from leaders who will do whatever it takes to reach people with the Gospel.

Smaller facilities and stage sets were more than compensated for by preachers, worship leaders and team members who exuded passion for the mission.

Passion beats polish.

2. Jesus over God

This may seem either self-evident or trivial, but I believe it’s neither; the churches that were packed with young adults talk about Jesus more than they talk about God.

Of course, Jesus is God and God is Jesus.

But God can mean many things in our post-Christian culture. Jesus is far more specific.

I’ve noticed that churches that talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit are having a greater impact on young adults than churches who talk about God.

3. Progress over Facilities

Several of the churches I’ve visited this year are multisite. And they don’t have massive facilities from which to launch new locations.

Next Level Church in New Hampshire is reaching almost 3000 people over 6 locations. Their largest facility is a 14,000 square foot campus that’s a converted auto repair shop. They’ve done a fantastic job remodelling it, but they’ve done it on a dime and it only seats 400 people. They’re reaching almost 3000 people out of that space across 6 locations.

It’s not the 10 million dollar facility you’d think you need to have to reach 3000 people, but that’s not what Josh Gagnon, their lead pastor, is focused on. (By the way, I was recently a guest on Josh’s Leadership Podcast. Perhaps my favourite interview I’ve given. Raw and so real.)

Josh’s passionate, can-do, no-excuses attitude is in part what’s led them to become one of the ten fastest growing churches in America.

Ditto for National Community Church in DC. They’re doing a superb job reaching young adults with very small permanent facilities. And they’re adding an eighth location without first building out the space they already have.


4. Risk over Certainty

All of the churches I know that are doing a great job with young adults take risks. Big risks.

They’re either at odds with their denomination (I’ve seen a few of these) or are launching locations where no one else would dare plant a church.

They’re figuring out how to accommodate parking and even children’s ministry after they’ve made the decision to open or move. They just want to see the kingdom advance.

And the young adults they’re reaching seem fine with the uncertainty. They just want more space and more locations to invite their friends to.

Lesson? If you’ve got growth and momentum but you’re waiting for certainty before you determine what’s next, you might be waiting too long.

Just act.

5. Mission over Money

The question for many churches is this: does mission follow money, or does money follow mission?

Great question.

The churches I know that are doing a great job with young adults would say ‘money follows mission.’

Do the mission well, and money shows up.

In fact, if you lead with the mission first, everything else shows up: people, money and the resources you need.

Too many churches wait for the day when they have the money to realize their mission.

Realize your mission, and you’ll have the money you need.

What Do You See?

What do you see in churches that are reaching the next generation?

If you want more, listen to my interview with Geoff Surratt on his forthcoming book on churches that reach millennials. His findings (while in beta) are fascinating:

Lasting Impact Releases TOMORROW! Today’s the LAST DAY for the Pre-order Bonuses!

Hey friends…I’m releasing a brand new book to help church leaders deal with issues like reaching the next generation with the Gospel.

The book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (team health, declining attendance, cultural trends and what the future church will be like to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book and fill out the bonus claim form will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! Today’s the last day to get all four!



leadership personally

5 Reasons You Should Stop Taking Leadership SO Personally

One of the problems I struggled with for years in leadership was taking every leadership triumph or set back so personally.

I let the dynamics of leadership go to my head and heart too often. My spirits soared when things were good in ministry. They sunk when they weren’t. I took too much of the weight home. Well, not just home. It followed me everywhere I went.

Over time, I’ve learned that there’s a world of difference between taking leadership seriously and taking it personally.

Leaders should always take leadership seriously. It demands our best, and we should give it. Every day.

But to take it too personally creates a roller coaster that ripples out all over the place.

When you take leadership seriously, everyone wins.

When you take it personally, almost everyone loses.

Here are 5 reasons you should stop taking leadership so personally.

leadership personally1. You’re messing up your head and your heart

If you take things too personally, you create an emotional roller coasting no one wants to ride.

As Tim Keller has pointed out, if you let success go to your head, failure will go to your heart. And that’s exactly what happens when you over-personalize your leadership.

Your head is never quite right when things are going well, because you take credit for things that perhaps rightly belong to God or to the contribution of others. Or you begin to believe it’s all you.

Conversely, when you fail, you become completely deflated, convinced God can do nothing with you or through you. You fall into despair.

The reality is that you’re not nearly as good as your best day or nearly as bad as your worst.

Healthy leaders know how to separate what they do from who they are, which leads us to the second reason you should stop taking your leadership so personally.

2. You’re confusing who you are with what you do

Far too many leaders confuse who they are with what they do.

Big mistake.

We all know we’re not supposed to confuse our identity with our work, but almost all of us do it.

You are not what you do.

Hear this:

You’re loved.

You’re forgiven.

You’re cherished.

None of this has anything to do with what you’ve done and everything to do with what Christ has done for you. That’s the Gospel.

The error in confusing who you are with what you do arises from the fact that you think you’re loved, forgiven and celebrated because you did your best.

Those who understand Christianity know that the opposite is actually true:

You do your best BECAUSE you’re loved, forgiven and cherished.

Do you see the flip?

You don’t do your best to earn God’s favour. You do your best because you have God’s favour.

Spend a day thinking and praying about that. Seriously, do a personal retreat on that one thought.

It will profoundly change how you lead.

3. You’re overemphasizing how important you are

At the heart of over personalizing leadership is this problem: you’ve unwittingly made it all about you.

Of all the scripture verses that stop me in my tracks, this verse from Galatians 6 is one of the best:

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:3 NLT

You’re just not that important.

As C.S. Lewis said, humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s simply thinking of yourself less often.

When you and I are gone, the world will keep spinning. The Kingdom of God will keep advancing.

Somehow it’s not about me. It never was. It never will be.

I just get to play a part.

4. You’re letting your personal feelings dictate the future of your organization

As goes the leader, so goes the team.

If your personal fortune goes up and down with your church or organization, eventually it doesn’t only impact you; it impacts your organization.


Because when you go down, so, eventually, does your church.

When you suffer, your organization then experiences the the impact of your dysfunctions.

A bad moment can become a bad season, because your reaction to what happens triggers the next happening.

Let’s say last month was a bad month in your organization for a variety of reasons. If you personalize those failures, last month’s results will make this month a bad month for you. And if you have a bad month this month, it’s somewhat likely that next month will be a bad month for your organization because you simply haven’t effectively led your team out of the slump (because you’re still in it).

What could have been a blip on the radar (one bad month) can easily become a slide down into a bad quarter or even a bad year.

And who needs that?

5. You’re ruining the rest of your life

I know that leadership brings a weight that only leaders understand. And to be candid, I still have a hard time not thinking about what I do. I love what I get to do. And I think about it a lot.

But it was far worse when I took my ups and downs in leadership personally.

Why? Because bad days would come home with me. Always.

When your success goes to your head and your failure goes to your heart, you always carry them home.

The people who love you will pay a price for this.

You will be arrogant or sullen…confused as to why you’re not the hero at home you are at work, or, on your bad days, resentful that your family and friends don’t want to join your miserable pity party.

The people in your life who truly love you don’t love you because of what you did at work. They just love you.

So stop ruining their lives. And yours.

Got Another Reason?

What have you learned about taking things too personally in leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

The Bonuses on My New Book Disappear In A Few Days!

Hey friends…I’m releasing a brand new book to help church leaders.

The book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (team health, declining attendance, cultural trends and what the future church will be like to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book and fill out the bonus claim form will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! They’re gone next Monday. 7.1_ModHmPg_v2

time carey nieuwhof

7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For

There are at least 7 things in leadership there will never be enough time for…unless, of course, you make it.

And smart leaders do.

My guess is that whenever you read this, you’re already feeling pinched for time and a bit overwhelmed.

Welcome to leadership. Welcome to life.

If you study the differences between great leaders and poor leaders (as I outlined here), many of them centre around pro-activity, refusing to make excuses and abundance thinking.

Another key difference is that great leaders refuse to let their days get sucked up by meeting after useless meeting, email and being pulled into other people’s urgent priorities.

If you’ve ever made it Friday and had a hard time answering the question “What did I accomplish this week?”,  it might be because you failed to make time for these 7 things for which great leaders always make time.

So, if you really want to edge up your leadership and begin accomplishing something significant, start making time for these 7 things.

time carey nieuwhof

1. Investing in your best people

Guess who will monopolize your time if you’re not proactive?

Your most problematic people. Problem people will occupy your calendar unless you decide they won’t.

When volunteer X didn’t show up for the 5th time, most leaders will spend incredible time and effort trying to fix that. Or you’ll get yet another meeting request from person Y, who always seems to have some irresolvable crisis going on in his life.

And in the process, your best leaders will be ignored.

Your best people—the ones who show up on time, every time, prepared and ready to do an exceptional job—rarely ask to meet with you. They never call you. They never bother you.

A great leadership practice is to spend the majority of your one-on-one time with your best people.


It makes them better.

It makes you better.

It moves your mission forward faster.

And—let’s be honest—it’s not like the problem people really get better as a result of your meeting with them anyway. They continue to be problematic.

So, cut your losses and spend the bulk of your time with your best people.

2. Planning for the future

There’s never enough time to do an awesome job planning for the future.

But if you study top performers, you realize they do something many other leaders don’t: they spend significant amounts of time working on plans for the future.

Naturally, they execute as well, but having a carefully crafted and shared mission, vision, strategy and even a set of values can guide your organization beautifully into the future.

If you don’t plan for the future, the future will simply happen to you.

If you plan for it, you’ll shape it.

When was the last time you took a full day—or even a full week—to work on the future?

No one will ever ask you do it, they’ll just criticize you if you don’t. So do it.

3. Your Highest Value Projects

If you broke what you do into categories from ‘lowest value’ to ‘highest value’, you’d learn something interesting.

You will naturally spend most of your time doing the things that provide the least value: answering email, going to meetings that went too long, didn’t need to happen or that you shouldn’t have attended, and answering questions that really didn’t move your mission forward.

Think about it this way: if you didn’t engage in any of the above for a week, what would truly be lost (other than having a full inbox to empty?).

But you also do things that provide exceptionally high value. While it will vary from leader to leader, for me, those things would be creating great sermon series, setting objectives for the months and years ahead and ensuring our senior leaders are healthy and on mission. I know when I do those things well, our church does best.

In my personal time, I blog, podcast and write. Recently, I’ve cut back on the number of original blog posts I’m writing so I can focus on launching my new book, Lasting Impact.  The decision was simple. Something had to give, and I believe a well-written book has the potential to help many more leaders over a longer window of time than a 1200 word blog post.

If you consistently spend time on high value projects, you will have a far greater legacy as a leader than leaders who don’t.

So what’s the greatest value you bring to your organization? Budget significant time for that.

4. Exercise

I avoided this for too long in my leadership. For the first decade in my time in leadership, I hardly exercised.

Ironically, I worked more hours and got less done.

While I’m not perfect in my exercise routine, exercise has been a bigger part of my life in the last five years than at any other point. So has proper sleep (see point 5, below).

Perhaps not coincidentally, in the window in which I’ve exercised the most and slept the best, our church has grown to the largest it’s ever been. I’ve also written 3 books, launched this blog and launched a leadership podcast.

This may not be a coincidence.

You’ll make time to go to the doctor if you suffer from obesity, diabetes or heart disease. So why not make time for exercise instead?

5. Adequate sleep

In the 80s and 90s leaders used to brag about how little sleep they got.

I bought that line of thinking until it almost killed me.

Chronic lack of sleep was a major factor in the personal burnout I went through almost a decade ago (I outline 7 painful truths about burnout and leadership here).

Today, I don’t cheat sleep anymore. In fact, I believe getting a full night’s sleep and even taking naps is a secret weapon most leaders miss.

You think more clearly and are simply nicer to be around when you’re rested. Everyone is. And those are two key characteristics of effective leaders.

Everyone will ask you to stay up later to get things done.


Go to bed on time. You’ll actually get more done—refreshed and alive in the morning.

6. Family

Everyone wants you to have a great family life as a leader, but then they’ll ask you to please attend their event next Saturday (which happens to be your family day).

What do you do?

Too many leaders cave and say yes to the event.

Every time you say yes to an event on your day off, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to an evening out, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to a project you can’t adequatly manage, you’re saying no to your family.

Two things can help with this.

First, pre-determine what your family time will be. Then, when people ask you whether you’re free, you can simply say “I’m sorry, I have a commitment”. If all you have is a blank space in your calendar, you’ll end up saying yes. So write “FAMILY” into your calendar as a commitment.

Second, you need to learn how to say no nicely. I outlined the 6 step strategy I use for saying no (nicely) in this post.

One day you will retire from leadership. You will never retire from your family.

7. Thinking

Every leader needs time to think.

If your life is a series of long meetings, administration and endless texts and emails, you will never take time to truly think.

Innovation never arises from leaders who just want to get it done. Innovation comes from leaders who question what ‘it’ should be.

Again, you can carve white space out on your calendar just to think. Go for a long car ride with the windows down. Find a coffee shop to linger in. Take a walk in the woods. Or lock your office door, shut your laptop and grab and pen and paper.

You can actually develop some strategies to become a better thinker (I outline mine here), but first you need to simply create the space and time to think.

What Have You Found?

I find if I don’t make time for these 7 things, they won’t happen.

How about you? What are you learning?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

The Bonuses on My New Book Disappear Soon!

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today (declining attendance, team health, cultural trends and the future church to name a few).

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses! There’s just a week left before they’re gone.



rethink call to ministry

Why It’s Time To Rethink What It Means To Be Called To Ministry

Chances are you’re likely struggling with the same issue almost every church leader is—a lack of truly great leaders for ministry.

Whether I talk to megachurch leaders or leaders of churches of 50 people, they say the same thing: they just can’t find enough capable, gifted leaders who want to serve in a church staff role.

In fact, many have told me they would have more campuses and be able to reach far more people if they just had qualified leaders to lead them.

The leadership crisis is true to some extent of volunteers, although many churches I know have figured out how to get capable leaders into key volunteer roles (if you want more on that, read this).

The deepest crisis is in staffing. The number of  people who want to be pastors, ministry directors, or serve in other church staff roles may be at an all time low.

In past generations, the best and the brightest young Christians often went into ministry.

Today, they go into law, medicine, business and into startups. They never even think of ministry.

Three questions.

What if we changed that?

How would we change that?

What would happen if we changed that?

rethink call to ministry

The Best and the Brightest?

I realize some of you are already chafing at the idea of ‘best and brightest’ and ‘ministry’ being used in the same sentence.

And for sure, I’ve read what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about not many of us Christians being wise in the eyes of the world, or well-born or well-educated. But he was talking about being called to salvation in that passage, not about being called to ministry.

And a little later on in the scriptures, Paul gave us his resume. It’s pretty impressive.

Sure, Paul was arguing that human skill is nothing compared to the tremendous grace he’s experienced in Jesus Christ. But you could make a strong argument that God used Paul’s training and background in law and theology to spread Christianity rapidly under Paul’s leadership.

For every Paul there’s a Moses with a less impressive resume (shepherd guy on a hill). But—wait for it—Moses spent time in a royal court. As did Joseph. As did Daniel.

I’m sure some of the lessons learned in those courts rubbed off.  And reading the stories of leaders like Moses, Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament is, in places, like reading a leadership textbook.

I think when you study the weight of scripture through that lens, you’ll realize God uses a person’s skill and talent for his higher purposes.

After all, if we believe a person’s gifting is from God, then it only makes sense God uses a person’s gifting to work out his plans.

Does God equip the called? For sure. He specializes in doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.

But maybe he also calls the equipped.

Having skills and gifts doesn’t disqualify you from ministry any more than not having them (initially) does.

The Problem with A Subjective Call

Onto the subject of calling.

The way most people talk about calling these days is almost entirely subjective. 

We say things like

How do you know you’re called?

Have you heard from God?

Has God spoken to you?

If the answer is no, many of take that as immediate disqualification from ministry.

There are many problems with boiling calling down to a subjective sense of calling. The first is that it’s…subjective.

If you say you’re called—that you’ve heard from God—who can really argue with that? You just played the God card.

Second, it assumes that every person who is called to work in a church full time has to have a subjective, personal experience of God telling them that’s exactly what they are to do.

What if that’s not true?

I don’t want to get into Bible wars. (You know, where people throw scripture verses at each other.) But I don’t want you to think I’m just making this argument up or that it’s entirely unbiblical.

There may be another perspective that might be far more scriptural than our current view of subjective calling.

Read through Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.

Paul does not say, if you feel you have the gift of apostleship, then you are an apostle.  Nor does he say if God told you you are an evangelist, that you are evangelist.

He simply says God made some people to be apostles and evangelists. And others to be pastors.

Your feelings don’t enter into it much. Your gifting does.

Similarly, I know people who think they are called to ministry who are actually not very good pastors.

Think about it.

You might feel called. You might be sincere.  But you might also be sincerely wrong.

Because our sense of calling has become so entirely subjective, we have perhaps allowed people who shouldn’t be in ministry into ministry.

Otherwise, why do some leaders who feel called to ministry struggle so much with being effective at ministry?

I realize this might seem far too harsh, but the subject is too important to ignore.

Now consider the opposite.

Why are people who are great at leadership not in ministry?

There are many reasons, but here are two:

Because their peers rarely think of ministry as a great option, they don’t (like breeds like).

Perhaps they didn’t experience a subjective sense of call into ministry.

But consider this. Paul does not say if you have the gift of leadership and feel a subjective sense of calling to lead, then lead.

He says if you have the gift of leadership, then LEAD WITH ALL DILIGENCE. No conditions.

Translation: if you have the gift of leadership…lead. It’s that simple.

So What Qualifies You For Church Leadership Then?

What if we looked at calling a different way?

First, every Christian is called to ministry, whether that’s in a volunteer role or a full time role, we all have a contribution to make in ministry.

But for church staff (which is the subject of this article), I wonder if we’d be ahead if we paid more attention to these 3 factors which I’ve selectively borrowed from Bill Hybels:





Character is such a major factor.

You just can’t lead in Christian leadership with out it.

The character of church leaders should be of the highest caliber. I’ve written extensively on character and believe that ultimately, your character, not your competency, determines your capacity as a leader.

If you want to see how your character is doing, you can try this revealing little test.


This is the factor that has been routinely ignored.

Your competency is a direct expression of your gifting. And the church has often ignored those with the gift of leadership. They have fled to the marketplace and avoided the church.

As a result, in the church:

We hire nice people over truly gifted people.

We hire people in need of work rather than people who can fulfill a mission.

We leave the marketplace to claim some of the best Christian leaders out there.

At Connexus, where I serve, we use gifting assessment tools like Right Path, StrengthFinders and others to determine where a persons’ gifting lies.

Objective metrics are so helpful because, ultimately, today’s changing church needs exceptionally skilled leadership.

But even a gut check can tell you the kind of leader the church needs.

The simplest way to tell if a person’s a leader? Look over their shoulder and see who’s following.

If high capacity people are following the person you’re looking at, they’re definitely a leader. If nobody’s following or the type of person who follows is questionable, well, at least you know what you’re getting.

And one hugely under-represented skill set in the church today is entrepreneurship. As I outlined here, I think the church today has more than enough shepherds. It’s time we found some entrepreneurs. Sure, entrepreneurial leaders are not the only leaders the church needs, but it is an exceptionally under-represented group in the church.

Today’s church demands today’s best leadership.


The third characteristic I think a church leader needs is conviction: conviction that the church is worth the full investment of a leader’s best time, best energy and even entire life.

What if there are thousands of leaders who are convicted that the church is supremely important, but they’ve just never thought their gifts could be put to use in it?

What if you don’t need a subjective sense of calling?

I won’t name them here, but I know personally of three leaders whose names you would likely know who are leading major ministries who never experience a subjective ‘call’. They would all say they simply volunteered.

And God has unmistakably used them powerfully. Their character, competency and conviction are second to none.

If they had waited for a subjective call, they might still be waiting.

And about 60,000 people might not be in church or have a relationship with Christ as a result.

What if there are thousands of leaders who would go into full time ministry if they knew that character, competency and conviction were enough?

What if?

Maybe You’re Called

Listen, to be fair, I had a very subjective call to ministry.

I am not a “God spoke to me this morning” kind of Christian, but I promise you God spoke to me.

My call to ministry in the middle of law school when I was in my twenties was entirely supernatural.

Honestly, I think it’s the only way God would have gotten my attention. I’ll tell you about it over coffee some day if we have a half hour.

But what if that’s not required?

See, if you’re:

a leader who has the character, competency and conviction to do church leadership, maybe you just should. Maybe that’s why you’re reading this.

a student or young leader or entrepreneur who has never thought about leadership in the church, but have the character, competency and conviction, rethink that.

responsible for hiring for your church, maybe ask candidates if they experienced and sense of calling, but don’t let the lack of calling be fatal. Look for character, competency and conviction. Maybe that’s enough.

Please hear this.

Some of you have never felt the call to ministry, but you have the conviction that the local church is the hope of the world. You also the competency and the character.

Maybe that’s enough. Clearly, you’d need to pray deeply about it and seek wise counsel who would affirm that you have the character, competency and conviction for ministry.

But maybe you don’t need the subjective call. Maybe the affirmation of your character, competency and conviction is your call.

Maybe you can volunteer.

So if you’ve got what it takes, step up.

More on The Issues Facing Today’s Church…Here

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, covers 7 key issues facing church leaders today.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Hurry, time is running out on the bonuses!



What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

Scroll down and leave a comment!


7 Things Leaders Do That Drive Their Team Nuts

If you lead, you are more than aware of the incredible responsibility you have toward others.

Leadership, by definition, is not a solo sport. You’re leading others, and how you do it ultimately determines how effective you are as a leader.

It also means you need to become exceptionally self-aware of your weaknesses.

If you think about it, the leaders you’ve probably liked the least have been the least self-aware.

In my view, self-awareness is a leader’s best friend. (Here are 4 things self-aware leaders know that others don’t.)

As a short cut, here are 7 common things leaders do that drive their team nuts. I know this because I have driven my share of team members nuts over my years in leadership.

1. Underestimating how much work it takes

You’re in an incredible position of trust as a leader. When you say things, your team does its best to make them happen.

But some leaders are notorious for underestimating how much time a task will take.

Sometimes leaders fall into the trap of thinking they can be like God and simply speak things into being: And the leader said “Let there be a fourth weekend service” and it was so. 

Of course, the leader hasn’t properly estimated the impact this is going to have on the parking team, the guest services team, the kids ministry team, the student ministry team, the production team or the music team.

Underestimating how much work something takes can seem like an initial advantage because it makes seemingly impossible things happen.

But it can also be incredibly demotivating to your team when you significantly underestimate how much work something will take.

Often leaders are afraid to ask how much work something will take because they fear leaders will say no. If you have a good team, that’s almost never the case.

They just want to know that you know and appreciate the effort and will allocate the budget and the staffing the proposal needs. And if you don’t have enough budget or staffing, often your team will say yes anyway and make it happen. They just need your encouragement and understanding of what it will cost them.

If this describes you, next time take the time to sit down with your team and think through how much work it will take to get you there. Then plan for it.

The fix can be that simple.

2. Impulsive, emotion-based decision making

I asked my amazing assistant what I do that drives her the most crazy. This was her pick.

Yep, leaders are passionate. Even impulsive.

They are used to creating something out of nothing. Sometimes that’s good, as in Hey, why don’t we launch two campuses at once? Or hey, why don’t we start a podcast and see if anything happens?

Often, the impulsiveness and emotion are driven from a place of discontent with the status quo. That is, after all, the impetus to change.

I may be bothered by something I think needs fixing immediately. I may be discontent about a situation I think the entire team needs to address immediately.

But, to paraphrase Bill Hybels, not all discontent is holy.

Sometimes my discontent comes from having a bad day, or being moody, or just deciding something on the spur of the moment.

And then I almost always reverse the decision the next day or the next week. Or bump what was priority #1 down to priority #32 because it just isn’t as important any more.

That’s frustrating for people.

I’ve gotten better at this, but when my assistant senses it’s happening, she’s become great at asking “So are you serious about this or is this just how you feel in the moment?”

Often that shakes me out of the moment and I’ll say “Right…I’m probably just upset about something. Let me sleep on it.”  Or I’ll ask her what she thinks (or check with some other leaders) and they’ll tell me I’m just worked up about something and I need to relax.

Just because you’re upset about something as a leader doesn’t mean it should become the top priority of the organization.

3. Being indecisive

I’ve seen indecisive leadership sink more than a few ships.

Your job as a leader is to make decisions that make things happen.

That doesn’t mean you make decisions all by yourself. The best leaders always involve a team in their decision making.

But you still need to make a decision.

What makes decision making hard at a senior leadership level is that it’s only the toughest decisions that make it to you. All the easy decisions already got made long before they reached your desk.

And that can lead to delay.

Delay leads to paralysis.

And paralysis leads to stagnation and decline.

Delayed decision-making demotivates your team.

So make a decision, and create a process for making sure decisions get made regularly and quickly.

Sure, every once in a while you need to take a long time to make a decision. But far too many leaders use that as an excuse.


4. Being too decisive and not valuing input

Every problem has a flip side, and the flip side of being indecisive is being too decisive.

Some leaders make instant decisions without any input from anyone else, and that is also frustrating to their teams.

I think it’s a good practice for every senior leader to be a part of something they don’t lead.

I work with a couple of organizations on the side where I’m not the senior leader or where I sit on the board. It helps me realize what it feels like to not be the senior leader.

So I know that I really appreciate it when CEOs ask for my opinion, when they value my input, when they seek my counsel. Even if I disagree with their decision, I know they consulted others, and that gives me confidence in their decision.

As Andy Stanley has so aptly said, leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing significant to say.

5. Creating an unsustainable pace

You can be tempted to burn the midnight oil as a leader. Most great leaders do at one time or another.

But leaders can also create unsustainable pace for their team.

Your team feels guilty about going home long before you do. And when you’re pounding out emails at 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. 7 days a week, it makes your team feel lazy.

It also makes you look incredibly unhealthy.

I have a very strong appetite for work, but I’ve let my team know what my expectation for them is.  Just because I work long hours (on a variety of things) doesn’t mean everyone has to.

One of a leader’s chief responsibilities is to create a sustainable pace for their entire team.

6. Working too few hours

Sometimes leaders end up working too few hours.

That’s perhaps even more demotivating that working too many hours.

Always work as hard as you expect your team to work. Even harder (but see above).

Leaders who phone it in have no place in real leadership.

7. Expecting others to put in more than you’re willing to put in

Leadership requires your all.

If your organization requires donations, contribute—sacrificially.

If your organization requires volunteers—volunteer for something, even though you get paid for your staff role.

Never expect more from your team than you’re willing to personally put in.

That doesn’t mean you should always be first in and last to leave. You have to focus on roles in which you can contribute most. But it does mean you should be willing to go the extra mile.

When a leader is working less passionately fewer hours than their team, the team loses both passion for the mission and respect for the leader.

What Do You See?

These are 7 ways I think leaders can drive their teams nuts.

What would you add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

More on Healthy Teams…Here

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, includes several chapters on healthy teams and healthy leadership.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2



Stop Running Defence In Your Marriage

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with church leaders about boundaries in marriage.

I’m all for protecting my marriage with great boundaries.

You know the kind:

Don’t meet with a member of the opposite sex alone.

Never travel with a member of the opposite sex alone.

Put a glass door in your office.

Have an accountability partner.

Install software protection on your devices.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Listen, I believe in strong boundaries. I’m 100% for them. As Michael Hyatt recently pointed out, the costs from an affair are horrific.

The last thing we need is for another ministry leader to fall after an affair. (Here, by the way, are 5 reasons pastors fail morally).

But all boundaries are fundamentally defensive moves.

But what bothers me about the tone of much of the conversation is that it sounds like having an affair is more appealing  than going home to your wife.


Instead of running defence with your marriage, run some offence.

Passionately pursue the person you married.

Defence protects your body.

But running great offence protects your mind and your heart.


The offence and defence analogy in marriage also works exactly as it does in sports.

You might have the best defence in the league. You allowed no runs, no touchdowns, no goals. Awesome. But you still won’t win unless you run some offence.

Besides, the goal of marriage isn’t to avoid an affair. The goal is to have the most intimate, passionate  relationship you can have with anyone.

So, run some offence!

Here are 5 ways to run a great offence in your marriage.

1. Bring your best energy home with you

If you read this blog, chances are you’re a leader.

So let me guess. You lead well all day.

But what often happens is you lead so passionately during the day that by the time you roll home around 5 (or 7 or 9) you are running on fumes. There’s nothing left.

All day long at work, you gave. When you come home, you want to receive.

Big mistake.

Save some of the exceptional skill, energy and heart you poured into work for your time at home.

And don’t spend it all on the kids either.

Way too many leaders lead their staff or kids with more intentionality than they love their spouse.

That’s a mistake. Your staff will quit. Or retire. Even your kids leave home one day.

Your marriage is forever.

So pour the same intentionality and leadership into your marriage that you do into your job.

2. Stop giving your spouse your leftover time

It can be so easy to give your spouse not just left over energy, but left over time and attention.

If dating your spouse is something you do only after everything else is done, your date night will stink.

If spending time with your spouse is something you do only after everything else is done, you will hardly spend any meaningful time together at all.

A priority is a pre-decision about your time.  If your marriage is a priority, your time alone with your spouse will be prime time.

Strangely, cleaning out an inbox gets attacked with more intentionality by some leaders than creating moments with their spouse does.

Change that.

Give your spouse your best time. Not your leftover time.

3. Deal with your junk

Not everyone is eager to rush home to their spouse.

I remember a season in our marriage where every date night would start with an argument. The pattern was regular enough that I began to dread date nights.

The reason had something to do with points 1 and 2 above, but there was a third factor.

I had issues I needed to deal with that were still unresolved. In other words, I needed to sit down with a good, Christian counsellor.

I was bringing my issues into our date nights. I was angry…I blamed my wife for things that were really my issues.

Once I dealt with my junk, our date nights got a lot better.

One of the best gifts you can give your family is to deal with your junk. So deal with it.

4. Do something awesome

So much of family life is what I call ‘transactional’.

Who’s going to pick up the kids?

What’s for dinner?

Can you get that load of laundry?

Hey, the lawn needs cutting!

In the ebb and flow of family life, awesome often gets saved for family vacations.

Two weeks a year of awesome isn’t enough.

A few years ago my wife and I bought bikes for summer and snow shoes for the winter. Plus we take short trips, dinners out, hikes and other things we both love.

Most couples do awesome things when they’re dating and then forget about it once they’re married.

Awesome isn’t just for dating and heaven. It’s also for marriage.

5. Have (great) sex

If you had an affair, you’d have sex.

So why not just flip it and have great sex inside your marriage instead? After all, you’re allowed. You’re even encouraged.

God designed us for intimacy, and there is no greater intimacy than the intimacy a man and woman can enjoy within the context of marriage.

Far too many marriages are sexless and joyless. If you pursue points 1-4 above, you will set the stage for much deeper, more meaningful sex life.

And a great sex life is a better guard against an affair than any software you can install on your computer.

What Do You Think?

I’m all for a great defence to protect your marriage. But I think a fantastic offence makes everything much better.

Anything you’ve discovered that creates great offence in a marriage?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

More on Healthy Relationships…Here

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, includes a chapter about burnout and thriving as a leader.

Healthy leaders have healthy marriages.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2



3 Common Reasons People Aren’t Responding To Your Awesome Vision

Frustrated that you feel like you’re casting an incredible vision…but nobody seems to be following?

It’s happened to all of us.

Usually, when a leader casts vision and it doesn’t ignite people’s imagination, there’s a good reason.

Sure, it could be you have a bad vision or a bad plan of action.

But let’s just assume you’re past that. You’ve got a great vision. It just didn’t ignite people.

There are times when all of us cast vision for something we’re excited about but hear crickets.

Here are three common pitfalls I’ve noticed when that happens.


1. You didn’t create a deep sense of urgency

Often the difference between attention and indifference is urgency.

Next time you’re on a plane, watch what happens when the flight attendant reviews the emergency oxygen and evacuation procedures.

Answer? Not much.

Most people are tuned out, dozing, reading or otherwise distracted. I’ve always felt for flight attendants. I’m sure they realize most people aren’t listening. Some have even adopted the monotone of a person who is saying something for the thousandth time to a disengaged audience.

It’s not that the information isn’t important, it’s just that it doesn’t seem urgent.

Why? Very few people actually expect the plane to crash.

When urgency is low, so is the motivation to listen and respond. 

Just imagine the same announcement mid-air during an episode of luggage-crunching turbulence.

How attentively are people listening now?

The only thing that’s changed is urgency.

Somehow information that was of possible use at some point has become essential at this point – maybe even life-saving. You’re going to remember and act on every word you can.

Leadership is no different. You might be sharing what you think is critical information with your team or entire organization, but if there’s no urgency, the motivation to listen to and act on it is low. Very low.

That’s why effective leaders learn to establish a sense of urgency when they speak.

While there are many factors that make up effective communication, leaders almost always communicate with a sense of urgency.

Urgency creates a hearing. And urgency demands a response.

How deep is the sense of urgency when I communicate? 

If the answer is ‘not very’, then don’t be surprised when people fail to respond.

2. You focused on the what, not on the why

As a leader, you get really excited about what you’re doing, but you take why you’re doing it for granted.

You know, and you assume everyone else does too.

One of the best communication techniques you can adopt is what I call the why sandwich.

In any vision communication piece (talk, email, blog post):

Start with why

Talk about the what

Touch briefly on the how

Close with why

This simple formula connects with people again and again.

Why unites. Why reminds us why we do what we do and what unites everyone in the room. It calls us back to the mission we all agreed we were on.

What and how divide. People who agree on the mission might disagree on how to accomplish or even what to do.

So if you only talk about what and how, you tend to divide people as much as you unite them.

But it’s deeper than that.

Even if everyone agreed on what and how, the agreement can be followed by a so what, as in, ‘well, that’s great, but so what? Why should I care???”

Starting with why and ending with why remind people what’s at stake, why it matters and why all of this is so critical.

Simon Sinek is right, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

So start and end with why. Always.

3. You didn’t ask for a response

I’ve been caught on this too many times.

A friend of mine who heard me cast vision around raising money once told me “Carey, you did a wonderful job inspiring and informing. You did a poor job asking.”

He was completely right.

You know why?

I was afraid.

I didn’t want to ask people for money. Even though it was for an amazing cause.

Think about it though: ultimately your fear of asking people for things is selfish. Mine was.

I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be effective.

Big mistake.

Ask. Tell people (specifically) what you want them to do. 

People respect a call to action.

Be specific, as in ‘What I’d like everyone to today is X.  What that means is Y. So will you respond? The cause is too important for you not to.

Yep, that’s bold.

But guess what happens when you specifically call people to action?

People respond.

See Another Reason?

When you cast vision, what stops people from responding to it.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Grow Your Church And Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

By the way, it’s an exciting month around here.

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

The book focuses on 7 conversations I think can help your church grow and become healthier than ever before. That’s why I’m so excited to get it into your hands and the hands of your leadership team.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2


CNLP 052: How Craig Groeschel Stays Healthy, Relevant and Passionate in Ministry

It’s one thing to develop great strategy for effective ministry, but it’s quite another to stay personally healthy and passionate in the midst of leading one of the fastest growing churches in the world.

Craig Groeschel gets personal as he talks to Carey about how he has stayed passionate and healthy over two decades of ministry.

Welcome to Episode 52 of the Podcast.


Guest Links:  Craig Groeschel 

#Struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World

Life Church

Craig on Twitter

Craig on Instagram

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Episode 1; Andy Stanley 

Marcus Buckingham

Perry Noble

Bill Hybels

Louie Giglio

Eric Liddell

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

You can be one of the most influential leaders in your community and still struggle with discouragement and inadequacy. Craig Groeschel tells us how he stays fueled in his ministry.

  1. Discover what keeps your passion white hot. Craig said he grew up going to church but didn’t follow Christ, so he developed a massive passion to bring people to God. “Put me in a room full of lost people, and I come to life,” Craig expressed emphatically. He says you’ve got to find that thing that breaks your heart, and stay close to that to keep you motivated. If you lose that, find something else that creates a divine hunger inside of your heart. Additionally, live in prayer so you can contemplate the goodness of God in your work, in your routine and in your life. If you give yourself permission to be close to God in nontraditional ways, it’s can be liberating.
  2. Take care of your body. Craig is committed to his routine in the gym and in his diet because he knows if he cares for himself, he can bring the best his best self to everything God puts in front of him. “It was more of a spiritual decision than a physical decision,” he said. “I want to bring everything to God to serve Him, so I take it seriously.” It’s also important that you give yourself time off from work, so you can recharge the other elements in your life that make you feel complete, whether it’s your family, your marriage or a hobby.
  3. Learn from everyone and anyone you can. You can learn from anyone because everyone has a story. You don’t have to learn from someone who’s “bigger” than you are. You can find new ways to learn from others if you see the right opportunity to do so. Put yourself around people who give you the gift of disorientation, those who aren’t just one step ahead, but 5 to 20 steps in front of you. Pay the most attention to the places where you find yourself giving pushback, because you can learn the most where you don’t understand the context. Information is everywhere now. There’s no excuse not to learn.

Quotes from Craig

Grow Your Church And Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning. And this month, we’re adding three bonus episodes on Thursdays to celebrate the podcasts 1st birthday.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley. Plus get the one year retrospective bonus episode and two #AskCarey episodes where I answer your questions.

Subscribe via



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Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

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

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

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode:Ravi Zacharias, Nabeel Qureshi, Alycia Wood and Margaret Manning

How do you share your faith in a world in which people are losing interest in Christianity? In this special episode, Carey interviews four leading apologists, including Ravi Zacharias, about how apologetics is changing and what to do next.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 53.

Plus, you’ll get the bonus 1 year anniversary episodes and special Ask Carey episodes in September.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

How to Get More Personal and Organization Momentum Starting Now

Chance are you would like some of what every leader would like—momentum.

All of us hit both personal and organizational plateaus.

And if you’re not careful, you can get stuck there, sometimes for far too long.

Sometimes the answers on how to get momentum can prove elusive until you’ve discovered the right questions.

Here are 7 questions I’ve collected over my time in leadership that I ask myself on a semi-regular basis to push through to the next level and find momentum.

While I can’t guarantee they will help you, I promise you they have helped me and our team get unstuck over and over again.

7 Questions That Can Fuel Momentum

Here are 7 questions that help me find momentum:

1. What’s your sweet spot and how much of your time are you spending in it these days? 

You may be good at many things, but you’re actually only great at a few things.

And you’re only truly passionate about a few things.

The more you can align your gifting and passion with how you spend your time, the more effective you will be.

Sure, in start up mode, you need to do a little of everything, but over time, the more you spend doing what you’re best at, the more you will love what you do and the greater value you’ll bring to your team and cause.

2. In your weekly routine, what are you having to manufacture energy to do? Who else could do that?

Someone else loves to do what you hate to do. Some people really love spreadsheets. (I don’t.)

Give them that work. Contrary to what you think, they’ll be grateful.

When you sit on something you don’t like doing and are not good at doing, you deny someone else an opportunity.

Plus, you sap your strength.

3. Who are you spending time with that you don’t need to be spending time with? 

This is a huge question. Don’t overlook it.

It’s tempting to think you have to spend your time with whoever asks to meet with you.

As I shared here, that’s almost always a mistake.

I spend almost no time with the people who attend our church because we have groups for that. In fact, I couldn’t lead a church our size if I spent all week meeting people who attend our church.

I focus my time on my direct reports, on staff, and on our elders. If our team is healthy at the top, it will be healthy throughout the church. So I focus on keeping our key leaders healthy and aligned.

I also make time for leaders and coaches who sharpen me. Because of that, the people who attend our church have a much better experience relationally (they connect with each other) and spiritually (the community is healthy) than if I tried to meet with all of them (which would, actually, be impossible).

4. Who are you not spending time with that you need to be spending time with?

Usually you spend time with people who are causing the most issues or friction in the organization, and you ignore you best leaders because they don’t ‘need’ you.

Flip that.

Spend most of your time with your best leaders. It will fuel momentum and create a positive, healthy culture.

Plus, you’ll love how you spend your days far more. Spending your time on perpetual crisis management kills momentum.

5. How can I put more fuel behind the areas that are seeing the most traction? 

Just like you need to spend most of your time with your best leaders, you and your organization should spend most of your time focusing your efforts on what’s producing the majority of your results.

If you can apply the Pareto Principle to all areas of your organization, you’ll go further.

For example, let’s say your kids ministry is seeing huge growth right now. Do you give resources to other areas that are weaker, or do you give more money and resources to kids ministry to further their growth?

I would vote for giving more money and resources to kids ministry. And then jump to question 6, below.

6. What areas of your ministry are seeing the least traction? 

Kill what’s not working. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, “It doesn’t take a leader to kill what’s dead. It does take a leader to kill what’s living.”

You need to prune and cut your organization as much as possible to fuel momentum. In the same way a pruned apple tree grows more apples, a pruned ministry bears more fruit.

7. If you were an outside consultant, what would you tell you and your team to do?

I love this question.

It might seems a little strange, but it will give you distance.

If you were an outsider, what would you tell yourself to do? Often you know the answer to this…you’re just afraid to say it.

So say it.

And then once you figure that out, just go do it. Often answering that question can lead to a breakthrough.

Pre-Order My New Book To Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

Want more on how to make your church grow and create momentum?

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time, pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to order your copy now. Hurry. The bonuses go away soon.7.1_ModHmPg_v2What Questions Do You Ask?

What questions would you add to this list?

What are you learning about momentum? Scroll down and leave a comment!


6 Things Christians Say That Sound Like Faithfulness…But Aren’t

I’ve heard it so many times.

Well, we’re just being faithful.

Sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and say, No, you’re not being faithful. You’re being ________(fill in the blank with whatever is a more accurate description of what you think they’re being).

Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most destructive.

They prevent us from:

Seeing ourselves accurately.

Clearly hearing what God has to say.

Seeing ourselves as others see us.

Self-deception is one of the most intense enemies a person can face.

One of the best things you can do is tell yourself the truth. And then live and lead out of that truth.

So, in the name of increasing self-awareness, here are six things Christians say that they think are signs of faithfulness that most often…just aren’t.

faithulness1. I’m just speaking the truth

How many times have you been told by another Christian that they’re ‘just speaking the truth’, when a more honest assessment might be ‘no, you’re not; you’re just being a jerk.’

Too many Christians try to pass off being abrasive and being self-righteous as being truthful.

If you’re speaking for Jesus, you just can’t separate grace and truth. You can’t.

Speak the truth in love. You’d be amazed at how much more effective it is.

2. We’re small, but we’re faithful

This of course, might actually be true. Small churches have many faithful leaders and people in them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a small church.

But being a small church does not automatically mean you are being faithful. I’ve heard many leaders claim to be small and faithful when in fact, the more likely case is they’re small because they’re being ineffective.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark sparked quite a debate and a good deal of defensiveness on the part of many church leaders.

Being small is not a sign of faithfulness. Not inherently. Sometimes you’re small because you’re ineffective. And sometimes you’re small for legitimate reasons. Just be honest about it.

3. We’re big because God is blessing us

Being a big church doesn’t necessarily mean that God is blessing your church. By that logic, anything that’s growing could claim God’s blessing (like an expanding street gang or a thriving black market business).

Large does not automatically equal faithful any more than small does.

You can grow a church without Christ. You shouldn’t, but you could.

Growth is, in my view, a sign of health. But being big does not mean you’re being faithful or healthy.

On the other hand (and I say this because so many people take easy shots at large churches), many large churches are faithful. Being large is not evidence you are unfaithful.

You can be small and be faithful. And you can be large and faithful. And the opposite is true.

By the way, if you want a refreshing take on the large church v. small church debate, listen to my interview with Karl Vaters. I’m from a larger church. He’s from a smaller church, and we actually get along. Here’s the direct link to iTunes where the interview is Episode 30.

4. I’m just misunderstood

A surprising number of people feel misunderstood.

And they say things like “Jesus was misunderstood, and so were the prophets.”  Well, yes. But the people who frequently claim to be misunderstood might find that changes if they learn to communicate more directly and more clearly.

Often Christians who claim to be misunderstood simply lack self-awareness.

Sure, there are moments in every person’s life where each of us is genuinely misunderstood. Some people, though, seem to frequently feel misunderstood. As in almost all the time. 

If you want to increase your self-awareness, here’s a post on four things self-aware people know that others don’t.

5. I’m being persecuted for my faith 

I live in North America. So do about 80% of the readers of this blog.

Move outside North America or the West, and you quickly find yourself in a world in which people get burned alive or beheaded for attending church or worshipping Christ. A world in which families lose their homes and livelihood for their allegiance to Jesus.

That is persecution.

Many North American Christian claim to be persecuted when in reality, their social skills need improving (see numbers 1 and 4 above).

Having someone get mad at you is not always persecution.

Having someone laugh at you for your faith is not persecution.

Nor is the brake job you need on your car ‘persecution’ (it’s just a brake job).

Or losing your bid on a dream home in a bidding war. Even if you lost out because someone doesn’t like Christians, that’s not exactly suffering for your faith.

If you think you’re being persecuted for your faith in North America, travel more.

6. I’m taking a Biblical approach

I’ve seen more than a few leaders claim to be taking a Biblical approach as soon as they start to feel threatened or inferior to someone else.

Implicit in this claim is a sense that anyone who is doing better, growing faster or seeing more traction has cheated or sold out. Undertone: I’m being biblical…they’re not.

Progress doesn’t always come immediately, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Sometimes Christians claim to be faithful when, in fact, they’re just being ineffective.

What’s needed is greater diligence, a better strategy, a better team, a fresh perspective and a push past the jealousy and envy we all sometimes feel.

So get some gut level honesty.

Why not just say “I’m happy for them” and then get to work on the things God has given you?

Anything You’d Add?

I know this is a bit of a tough post. But if we learned to call things for what they really are, wouldn’t we all be further ahead?

I’d love for you to add to this list. What else have you seen people call ‘faithfulness’ that isn’t?

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