Home » Blog » Strategy

Category: Strategy

better communicator

5 Tips That Will Definitely Make You a Better Communicator

So you want to be a better communicator. You’re just not sure how to do that.

Sometimes the art and science of becoming better seems so complex, you’re not sure where to start.

After all, most people who hear you talk can’t give you meaningful feedback. They can tell you whether they liked it or not, but rarely can they tell you why they liked it. Even if you did a great job, you will have a hard time repeating it if you don’t understand what made it great.

That’s why it’s so critical to get feedback and coaching from other communicators. They can often explain why your talk worked or why it didn’t, just like a hitting coach in major league baseball can help a .300 hitter become a .310 hitter by offering far more helpful tips than a simple “Hey, just strike out less.”

So in this post, two things. First, below, I share some of my favourite communication tips (including a few I’ve never written about before) that can make a surprisingly big difference.

Second, this week there’s an opportunity to get 3 hours worth of FREE Preaching Coaching. It’s a $299 value but The Rocket Company is making a limited number of seats available at their online AMPLIFY Conference absolutely free.

You can join this virtual conference for free if you pre-register today (affiliate link).  Join Jeff Henderson as he interacts with Dr. Charles Stanley, Lysa TerKeurst, Matt Chandler, and Crawford Loritts.

It happens Wednesday, September 28 at 1:00 pm (EDT).

Want to know my favourite part of the event?

Jeff will select a few audience members (who have pre-registered) to evaluate their sermons LIVE on the air! Jeff has actually done that for me and the level of feedback he provides is astonishing and so helpful. So don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

So, let’s get better together.

Here are 5 simple tips that can definitely make you a better communicator before you give your next talk. They’ve definitely helped me.

better communicator1. Don’t memorize your talk, understand it

This may be my favourite speaking tip of all time. It just solves so many problems and reduces tension before you speak and while you speak.

I get asked all the time how I can speak for 45 minutes or even longer without looking at notes. I learned the secret when I was in seminary and asked Tom Long, a Princeton professor, how he did it.

He told me: Don’t memorize your talk; understand it.

He was right. Memorizing a talk is extremely difficult. Especially a longer talk. I personally find that trying to recall a memorized talk stilts your delivery because you can’t focus on the moment.

So instead of memorizing your talk, understand your talk.

Think about it. You do this intuitively when you talk to someone. For example, you don’t memorize inviting someone to dinner. (Okay, maybe you memorized a dinner invite once, when you were asking that girl you had a crush on out on a first date…And remember how awkward that was? Point made…)

No, if you’re inviting a friend to dinner, you just intuitively know that you need to see if they’re free, set up the details and maybe figure out where and when and who’s bringing what. Your conversation follows that flow.

Your talk is no different. It’s an introduction, a body, a conclusion and some transition points along the way. If you can grasp those main points, it’s amazingly easy to see how you will naturally fill the space in between with what you prepared.

You need to be familiar with your talk and you need to understand it, but you’ll never need to memorize it.

I wrote more on how to deliver a talk without using notes here.

2. Begin writing  your talk weeks in advance

It’s good to get ahead on your talk for so many reasons. But here’s one you may not have known.

Your brain actually has both long term and short term memory capacity.

If you write a talk shortly before you give it, the brain stores your talk in your short term memory. This is why, sometimes, if you’re a preacher who wrote Sunday’s message on a Thursday (or worse, on Saturday night!), it can feel so unfamiliar to you on Sunday.

Contrast that with a talk you’ve worked on weeks ago and maybe delivered recently. For some reason, you probably feel like you know that talk much better than the others you write just before delivery. The reason is simple: your brain stored that information in your long term memory because it’s been around longer.

Ideas stored in long term memory are just easier to recall.

I know it’s hard to get ahead, but try it. I’m working on a series I’m delivering two months from now. I’ve even got most of the bottom lines developed for the series and I’ll flesh out most of the messages in detail two to three weeks before I preach them. My guess is that by the time I deliver the first message, the series will already feel like an old friend.

Because I’m comfortable with it, the talk will immediately connect better with the audience. Your comfort with the subject may even appear to give you more authority on the subject, too, because your audience will assume you understand it well. They’ll realize you own it, because you do.

Speakers, this is also why conference talks you’ve repeated once or twice are so easy to recall: they’re stored in your long term memory.

By beginning every talk well in advance, you give every talk the opportunity to flourish into something better.

3. Include at least one self-deprecating story

If you want to build rapport with your audience, show them your weaknesses, not just your strengths.

I almost always try to find one mildly self-deprecating story in any talk I’m giving. (Fortunately, I seem to have an endless supply of self-deprecating moments from which to draw.)

This does two things. First, it put you on the same level as the audience, which is exactly where you want to be in a post-modern, post-Christian culture. Theologically, that’s a good thing, because you actually are on the same level as your audience. But in our post-modern, anti-authoritarian culture, the audience wants to know you’re one of them.

In a post-modern, post-Christian culture, your authority actually goes up, not down, when you display your vulnerability.

Second, the audience empathizes with you. They see themselves in you, and your honesty makes them quietly cheer for you.

Can you overshare? Yes. Can you under-share? Absolutely.

How do you know where the line is? If you’re not sure, I wrote this post on how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

The bottom line, though, is this: people may admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.

4. Pay attention to the logical flow of your talk

Every talk should take people on a logical journey. Even our stories are sequenced logically, with a beginning, middle and end. If you don’t believe it, try watching a movie with the scenes in random order. It will drive you crazy and the story, of course, will make no sense.

Our brains are hardwired to search for meaning, and logic brings order out of the chaos around us.

Your talk should have a beginning, middle and end, and each section should be logically and sequentially related.

For example, if you start your talk by describing a problem, then your talk should also offer the solution or at least a response to that problem. If it doesn’t, you’ll just annoy people.

Similarly, move the different sections of your talk through a logical grid. It should look something like this: If A, then B, then C and then, finally, D.

Here’s the logical flow of a recent message I gave.

A. Some of you don’t like Christians because you think most Christians are hypocrites.

B. In fact, aren’t some non-Christians actually better moral people than the Christians you know?

C. Well, you’re right. Most of us are hypocrites.  You have a moral standard. The question is: have you kept it?

D. But what if our personal morality isn’t the basis of Christian salvation? Christianity doesn’t make moral people better. It makes dead people live.

E. God is actually more critical of hypocrites than you are.

F. Fortunately he forgives, and challenges those ready to throw stones at others to drop them.

G. In light of God’s incredible mercy, it’s time to drop the stone.

Most messages typically have 3 to 7 key logical moves in them. This one had seven. Whatever it is, understanding the logical flow of your argument will help you understand your talk, which as we saw in Point 1 above, eliminates the need for memorization.

If you can’t figure out the logical flow of your talk as a communicator, your audience never will.

5. Speak with double your normal energy during delivery

One final quick tip: whenever you’re communicating, speak with double your normal energy.

It’s going to feel weird at first, but it’s vital.

Speaking in normal conversational tones when you have a microphone in your hand actually makes you sound boring. So double your energy.

Start by doubling your normal volume. I’m not talking about yelling. I’m talking about speaking more loudly and passionately.

Many speakers get freaked out by the microphone. Don’t. The sound person will turn you down when you project your voice.

A quick hack? Pretend you have no mic on and you’re speaking to the person at the back of the room. That will automatically make you a more compelling speaker.

Energetic speakers are always more compelling.

Any Tips?

What are your favourite tips on becoming a better speaker?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

And don’t forget to register for free for the Amply Event today.

desire for consensus

Why It’s Time to Give Up On Your Desire for Consensus

So you’d love to get everyone to buy into your idea, don’t you?

Church leaders (and many other organizational leaders) are famous for trying to get consensus around an idea before launching it.

I get that.

But consensus has a cost. A big cost. Here it is:

Consensus kills courage. 

Very few good, innovative ideas gain consensus before a leader acts.

In fact, most great new ideas worth anything are divisive right out of the gate.

As a result, leaders shrink back. They smell the tension, and they back off. They try to get too much buy-in on the front end, and their vision doesn’t actually become better, it just becomes diluted.

As a result, too many leaders lose hope, passion and vision.

Why is that? How can you turn it around?

drive for consensus

Think about how different history would be if great leaders always needed consensus from the people they led:

Moses would have left the Israelites in slavery.

Jesus would have listened to the disciples and talked himself out of the cross.

Peter would never have given up his kosher diet.

The apostle Paul would have gone back to Phariseeism.

Martin Luther would have waited for his bishop to approve.

Martin Luther King would have delayed until legislators were sympathetic.

Even Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line and first mass producer of cars, famously said that if he’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses.”

Any time you’re seeking to bring about radical change, most people will think it’s a terrible idea. And sometimes, they’re right.

But there are other times where they’re not.

You should live for the ‘once in a while’ idea. It’s the kind of idea that changes everything.

When it comes to courageous change, here are four things that are true:

1. Consensus on the front end kills courage

If you look for consensus during a season of innovation, it will almost always strip the courage out of your idea.

Trying to find consensus while mining for fresh ideas results in diluted ideas because people often don’t realize what they need before they see it.

No one needed smart phones…until the smartphone was invented. Now try to remove it from the marketplace or your life.

Even the electric light bulb was seen as a stupid idea. Scientist Henry Morton of the Stevens Institute of Technology predicted the light bulb would be ‘a conspicuous failure.’ A British parliamentary committee concluded the light bulb was ‘good enough for our transatlantic … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.’

And if you are looking for courage, few things will kill it faster than the drive for early consensus.

The best idea only looks like the best idea after it wins.

2. Individuals are almost always more courageous than teams

I don’t know why this is true, but it’s often easier for a team of people to adapt to a bold idea and make it better than it is for a team to come up with a bold idea.

This isn’t always the case, but in many instances, I think it is. I dream in teams and I encourage people to dream alone, but often the best ideas come from one person.

Teams are one thing. Committees are another.

I’m not 100% sure what the differences are between the two, but I think teams tend to attract leaders while committees rarely do.

So, if you want to kill vision, form a committee. The committee will beat the life out of any innovation you bring to the table.

Most dying organizations have committees. Almost no growing organizations do. It’s an interesting observation.

3. You shouldn’t walk alone, but innovation may require you to start alone

Walking alone is a bad idea, but starting alone is sometimes required for true innovation.

The need to start alone or with a handful of people by your side is not that uncommon a phenomenon.

For example, when I launched my leadership podcast two years ago, almost all the advice I got was “keep it short…people have small attention spans” and “feature your ideas on the podcast.”

I didn’t want to do that. Instead, I wanted to do two things: bring a longer form podcast to the church space AND do it by featuring me interviewing other leaders. Every other podcast in the church leaders space at the time was shorter and featured the podcast subject interviewed by someone else.

Against most of the advice given to me, I launched the podcast as a 45-minute to 90-minute episode with me interviewing someone else. To be fair, I had seen this format done in other areas, but no one in the church space that I knew was doing it.

Now, 24 months later, people seem to love the format, and it’s caught on quickly. I’m not doing it alone anymore, but I had to start alone.

Sometimes that’s okay.

4. Great ideas gain consensus on the back end

So how do you know if you have a truly great idea?

Watch and see if people buy in on the other side of the launch.

What should happen is that as your idea gains steam, more and more people buy in until, on the other side of the launch, you have success.

The principle? Look for consensus on the back side of change, not the front side.

If no one buys into your idea over time, you probably have a bad idea.

Here are some ideas to get you started if you’re handling a divisive, innovative idea:

Don’t ask the team for agreement, just get permission.

Listen to people, but follow your gut.

If you’re wrong, take full responsibility.

When it emerges that you were right, be humble and invite others on the journey.

Ask yourself this

I realize these ideas are controversial. I realize acting on them might get you fired.

But would you rather look back in 30 years with regret at how many great ideas were anesthetized by a visionless committee or group?

Or… would you rather look back and be satisfied that you did everything in your power to bring about change, even if it got you in trouble?

Of course, the third option might be that you successfully ushered in the change that changed everything. But I’d even settle for trying, failing and getting in trouble.

This is not an excuse to be a jerk, but it is permission to be courageous.

So today, don’t look for consensus. Instead, be courageous.

What are your frustrations about consensus? Scroll down and leave a comment!

(P.S. If you want to read more about leading change, I wrote all about leading change without losing it in my book, and also in this blog series about change that starts here.)

recent exit

Some Thoughts About The Recent Exit of Two Megachurch Pastors

Like many of  you, I was deeply saddened to learn of Pete Wilson’s recent resignation as the Senior Pastor of Cross Point Church.

In Pete’s own words (you should read and watch them for yourself), he’s tired, broken and has led on empty for too long. So he’s stepping back.

This comes, of course, just a few months after the exit of Perry Noble from NewSpring.

If someone had told me in January of this year that both Pete and Perry would leave ministry this year under tough circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

Their departures have a lot of people talking and a lot of people thinking. Hopefully, it’s also got a lot of people praying.

It also has pastors reflecting.

I’ve been in conversations with people in church leadership. Many of us are asking what it means, and whether it can or will continue to happen to more of us.

Some writers and social media commentators have taken cheap shots. Man, that breaks my heart. I hope this post is the opposite of taking shots at anyone.

The mission of the church and its leaders is too important to do that.

I offer these few thoughts with the sincere hope this makes all of us a little better in the church. I also offer it out of a deep love and respect for Perry, Pete and all of you in church leadership.

exit megachurch

1. Pastors aren’t fake; the struggle is real

When a megachurch pastor resigns because he’s burned out, or because he’s experiencing personal problems, critics often rush in to claim that pastors are fake.

Look, most leaders who get into ministry aren’t fake.

It’s not that pastors are fake; it’s that the struggle is real.

I know Perry and Pete personally and I have only detected sincerity in both of them.

They started churches because they love Jesus. They led out of a love for Jesus. They sincerely wanted to reach people and did reach people who will actually be in heaven because of what happened.

I think I’m on firm ground to say they still love Jesus, very much.

Pete and Perry are the real deal. They’re not the plastic hair/shiny suit type of preacher. They got in this and stayed in this for the right reasons.

I’ve also felt the push and pull of ministry and life. And it almost took me under.

The struggle is real. After a decade in ministry, I burned out too. (Actually, Perry and I talk about burn out in this interview.)

By the sheer grace of God, I came back and am now in a place where, while I have struggles like anyone, I feel healthy and extremely grateful. (While this isn’t a universal prescription, here are 12 things that helped me come back from burnout.)

Often when you see a leader exit, it has nothing to do with whether that leader is sincere. It has everything to do with the fact that the struggles he or she is facing are real.

2. It’s hard to lead anything

It’s hard to lead anything, let alone a church. Or yourself.

Leaders face pressures non-leaders don’t always understand.

And leaders of large organizations face even more complex problems.

When you lead a large ministry or organization, it comes with problems and challenges 99% of the population never wakes up to most days.

Add to that the pressures of life, marriage, family, relationships and the task of leading yourself, and you have a recipe that requires tremendous personal stamina, humility, growth and development.

Sometimes critics say large churches are bad because they seem to generate outcomes like the ones we’ve seen recently.

The reality is that small church pastors also leave their ministries, experience burnout and suffer moral failure every day.

You just never hear about it because those stories don’t make the news. (Please note, neither the exit of Pete or Perry involves moral failure.)

Large churches aren’t inherently bad. Small churches aren’t inherently good.

Churches just have people in them. And that makes it…well, complex.

3. God loves and uses broken people

Are Perry and Pete broken?


And so am I.

So are you.

Too often we hold up perfect pictures of what our life is supposed to be like.

We all remember Eden somewhere in the back of our minds. It’s like we all know what it was like, and what it will be like in heaven.

But this isn’t Eden and this isn’t heaven. The war’s been won, but we’re living in a battlefield somewhere in between what was and what will be.

As a result, our lives are a complex mixture of sin and grace. Of brokenness and redemption.

This is true of pastors too.

We don’t have a direct line to God any more than you do. Our marriages aren’t ‘easier’ just because we’re in ministry (actually, you could argue that they’re harder). Our souls aren’t inherently more virtuous.

Pastors aren’t better people; they’re just called people. Called to the same calling to which non-pastors are called but in a specialized role.

Sometimes I wish people would actually read their bibles. We think we have to be perfect for God to use us.

But then there’s scripture…

Noah got drunk and partied naked after God delivered him and his family from death.

Moses came into ministry after he murdered someone.

Jacob raised perhaps the most dysfunctional family imaginable.

Judah slept with his daughter-in-law only because he mistook her for a prostitute.

David was a fantastic king. And then he saw Bathsheba.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived in Old Testament times but really struggled with sex. And God. And cynicism.

Elijah saw one of the most powerful displays of God’s power in history, and then promptly fell into a self-pitying depression.

Jonah ran away from God again, and again, and again.

Peter denied Jesus.

Thomas doubted even when he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

Paul was a little insecure (just read 2 Corinthians).

The early church as described in Corinthians is a study of dysfunction.

Early Christians stopped believing in the resurrection (Read 1 Corinthians 15).

The amazing part is this: God used it all.

I know we preach on this stuff but it’s like we don’t expect it to apply to us.

As my friend Reggie Joiner and I wrote a few years back, God doesn’t use perfect pictures. He uses broken people.

Why does God use broken people? Because those are pretty much the only people he has.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is an excuse to start sinning.

I want to stay faithful to my wife, be a compassionate father and be a healthier, better leader because I know it honours God to do that. Plus, life honestly goes better if you avoid those pitfalls.

But the fact that we are imperfect shouldn’t be a reason to say we can’t lead.

Clearly, there are activities and conditions that would and should take us out of ministry for a season or longer, but we have to get over this idea that leaders need to be perfect.

Christ is perfect. We get to partner with him.

If you’re thinking well, I’m just more righteous than all this, you need to know that puts you in great company. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought.

What Now?

I hope and pray the day will come where we see Perry and Pete back in strong and vibrant leadership in the local church. The story isn’t over for either of them. As Perry often famously said, if you’re still breathing, God’s not done with you.

I also hope and pray that honest, helpful dialogue will help many more of us avoid hitting the crisis point that tips us out of leadership, if even for a season.

This is not a ‘do these 5 things and it will bullet-proof your ministry’ kind of post. Because the issues are far more complex than that.

But as for me, I want to develop the practice of getting the help I need before I need it. Yesterday, I went back to my counsellor not because I have any burning issues, but because I want to see them before they start. As a close friend has told me, sometimes you need to go to a counsellor not because you have a bad marriage, but because you want a good one.

I want to stay close to my inner circle, telling them more things more often. Walking closely with people who love me enough to call me out and tell me the truth.

And finally, I want to stay even closer to God. It can be difficult to have an intimate relationship with God when you do his work every day (I know that’s hard to understand if you’re not in full-time ministry, but trust me, it is). So I’ll keep pressing closer knowing he loves me because I’m me, not because I lead.

I’m not saying my friends didn’t do any of these things or didn’t want to do them, I’m just saying I know that when I do them, I’m healthier.

Any thoughts on this, friends? Abusive or negative comments will be deleted. This isn’t the time or the place for that. Cynics, please go somewhere else.

But for those of us who love the church and its leaders, what are your thoughts and what has helped you when you’ve run into the challenges of life and leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

iPhone 7

Why I Returned My iPhone 7 An Hour After Ordering It

So I did a crazy thing recently that some of you do. I set my alarm for 2:55 a.m. EDT to make sure I was one of the first in line to pre-order the new iPhone 7 Plus (yes, I’m a Plus guy) on release day.

(And hang on…whether you’re an Apple fan, Android fan or whatever-fan, the point of this post is universal, I promise.)

It’s been 2 years since I upgraded, so I was excited to order a new phone. I did what it seems most people did: I ordered my new phone in the brand new JetBlack colour.

But literally less than an hour after I ordered it, I canceled my order.


Simple. I couldn’t get back to sleep easily so I decided to watch a user review of what I just bought (thanks, Jennifer McWilliams, for the link).

Apparently, even at the release event, the JetBlack phones were scratching and smudging. And they’re slippery. I’m a neat freak, so scratching, smudging and slipping are not my love language.

So I went back online and ordered the iPhone 7  in matte black, which apparently is much better. Plus it ships earlier (less demand). And then I promptly canceled my JetBlack order.

So what’s my point?

Here are three quick thoughts on user reviews that can make a difference for any leader.


 1. What USERS say about you trumps what YOU say about you

In today’s culture, what users say about you trumps what you say about you. Even if you’re Apple.

Think about it: when was the last time you bought anything significant without checking out user reviews first? For years now, I haven’t bought a TV, car, computer or frankly even a replacement water filter for my fridge without looking at the reviews before I buy.

Something that was absent from the market a decade ago now dominates consumer purchases and consumer thinking.

Leaders who understand this will always do better than leaders who don’t.

2. Direct access and interaction matters. A lot.

Again, as little as a decade ago, few of us had any interaction with major brands. At best you went to a clunky website and filled out a customer form and waited to hear back.

Social media changed all that.

While most of us don’t have direct access to companies as gigantic at Apple, you probably have interaction with your airline via social media. I’ve been surprised to hear back from CEOs of start-ups and executives at even mid-sized companies.

People expect it.

The point?

When you hear directly from an organization, you are far less likely to complain about the organization.

So… leaders, to what extent are you interacting on social media and other channels with your congregation or tribe?

Are you…

Asking questions?

Answering questions?

Expressing gratitude?

Encouraging people?


If you are, you’re building a much better experience for others.

Using social media for dialogue rather than monologue can really help sharpen the experience for both leaders and customers.

Plus, paying attention to user reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Google or other platforms is tremendously enlightening. Even if you don’t agree with what users are saying, you’ll learn from them.

3. Leaders who think like customers are better leaders

Hey, I realize churches don’t have customers—we have congregations. But as a leader of a church or organization, you live a good chunk of your life as a customer of other companies.

Leaders who think like customers are better leaders.

For example, even Apple admits its JetBlack phones will scratch and carry “micro-abrasions” (see footnote 1 way down at the bottom of the iPhone 7 page). Maybe the fears about scratched phones are way overblown. And clearly, all the other models do not have this problem. But why would you release a model that you know is going to bother a meaningful percentage of your customer base?

Releasing an expensive product that already has a built-in problem is a bit perplexing to me, but perhaps there are factors at work I don’t see or can’t realize.

I know that as a leader, it’s way too easy to think about what I’m passionate about as the leader of an organization rather than what the end-user experience is like.

If you really want to be a better leader, flip your viewpoint from your perspective to your end user’s perspective. Ask yourself:

What will it really be like to hear the message I’m writing on Sunday?

What’s it like to be ‘new’ at our church?

What will small group feel like if I’ve never in a small group before?

How will people react when they see this email I’m writing in their inbox?

What it’s like for a first-time single mom to hand her child off to a volunteer in our pre-school ministry?

It’s just so easy for leaders to only think through things from their point of view as a leader. But leaders who think like customers are always better leaders.

No, you don’t need to do everything your customers say (that’s not leadership), but it does mean you should listen to your customers.

If you understand your customers, you’ll be the best able to serve them.

What are you learning about user reviews and listening to customers?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

control freaks

What Everybody Ought to Know About Control Freaks in Leadership

It’s amazing to me how many leaders I know tell me they struggle with control.

I come by the subject honestly because I, too, am a recovering control freak.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with control. Control freaks love it when they’re in control. But others hate working for them.

People who like control seem to have a natural ability to get into leadership positions. Or sometimes they just create one.

So can you recover from being a control freak? Is there a way out?

The answer to both questions, fortunately, is yes. And it helps to see what’s really at stake.

control freaks

The first step, predictably, admitting you have a problem.

For years, I resisted the control freak label. Maybe that’s what you’re doing.

You’re not a control freak. You’re just:


Detail oriented (of course, only very selectively about the things for which you have the most passion)

Good at what you do (okay, you don’t say that one out loud…but control freaks, you know what happens when you delegate to other people who just can’t get the job done, right?)

Control freaks get things done. In fact, maybe you use your success to justify your addiction to control.

In the early years of my leadership before I realized I had an issue, our church grew explosively. So you would think: Well, God blesses control freaks, so just leave me alone.

And yes, of course he loves them.

But apparently Jesus didn’t model control freakishness very well for those of us who want to follow in his footsteps.

He only ministered for three years, building into some questionable characters he called disciples. He poured his life into them and then left the planet and put them in charge.

A number of years ago I finally admitted I have a problem (only after about 1,282 friends had gently hinted that I might). And I began to let go.

Don’t get me wrong, the impulses are still there.

But learned behaviour has a wonderful way of compensating for impulses that no leader should act on.

When I struggle with wanting to seize control, I keep these 5 insights in front of me.

These five things help me remember that controlling everything means you will eventually end up leading nothing significant.

1. Control is often a substitute for a lack of clear strategy or alignment

Leaders use control as a substitute for clarity.

If you don’t know with absolute clarity what your organization is doing, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there (mission, vision and strategy), you can never truly align a team.

As a result, you end up defaulting to control because people ‘just don’t get it’ and as a result you can’t trust them (or so you think).

The reason you can’t ‘trust’ people of even stellar character is not because they aren’t trustworthy, it’s because you haven’t stated the mission, vision and strategy clearly enough in a way that it’s repeatable and reproducible.

People run off in the wrong direction because you never made it clear what the right direction is.

Create clarity, and you will feel the urge to control dissipate.

2. Control is often a substitute for an inability or unwillingness to delegate well 

You tell yourself the reason you control is because you gave the job to someone else and, well, they just didn’t do a good job.

Ever think you maybe just didn’t train them well?

Just get good at delegation. Again, clarity is your friend here.

The clearer you are, the better you train others, the more razor sharp your strategy is, the more your team will knock it out of the park.

When you grow your team, you grow your mission.

3. Your need for control and the size of your organization are inversely proportional

If everything needs to flow through you, you will not only bottleneck your organization, you’ll kill the potential of the mission.

If you insist on staying in control, you will shrink the size of your organization to your personal capacity. The capacity of a team of leaders is always greater than the capacity of a single leader. What you can do through many is always greater than one you can do through one.

The more you need to control, the smaller your organization will stay.

The more you can release (around a crystal clear mission, vision and strategy), the more it will grow.

It’s really this simple: A leader’s need for control and the size of an organization are inversely proportional.

4. Control repels great leaders

If you want great leaders to flee your organization, control them.

They’ll leave. If you want to attract great leaders, release them with a clear mission, vision and strategy (and give them input to shape it).

As long as you micromanage everything, you will only have do-ers in your organization, not lead-ers.

5. The more you let go, the healthier the organization gets

I absolutely love it that over the last decade, I get to go to events our church staff and volunteers have pulled together and have little to no idea about how the event came together or even what’s going on—that’s how involved I was in the planning.

And you know what? They’re the best events we’ve ever run.

The more I get out of the way, the stronger our team and organization get.

Sure, I play a role, but I clearly don’t play every role. Nor should I.

I love being a “guest” to the exceptional things our team does. And they love leading and helping people lead. It’s just healthier. And because they have a clear sense of mission, vision, strategy and even culture, amazing things happen. (Here’s a 5 step guide on how to create an amazing team culture.)

The more I let go, the healthier our organization gets.

What Do You Think?

When I feel the impulse to control, I remind myself of these five things.

What are you learning about control? How are you learning to release your grip?

time to leave

7 Signs It’s Time to Leave

So you’ve thought about leaving, haven’t you?

Thinking of leaving your current job is a fairly normal phenomenon. And yet in ministry, changing churches seems to happen faster than in many other occupations.

While statistics vary, most pastors stay 3 to 7 years in one place before moving on. In my view, that’s barely enough time to effect any change. And I doubt it’s long enough to bring about transformation.

What’s the difference between change and transformation? Simple. Transformed people never want to go back to the way it was.

My personal theory is that it takes 3-5 years to change a church. It takes at least 7 years to transform it.

For that reason alone, I have a bias toward staying in the same church for a long time. I’ve served in the same community with the same group of people for 21 years.

Should everyone stay that long?

Not necessarily. I’ve also seen leaders stay for years past their effectiveness in leadership. That’s a disaster for everyone.

So how do you know when you should stay in your current position in ministry, and when should you go?

My friends Kenny Conley and Sam Luce are also writing today on when it’s time to go.

Kenny Conley just left a major ministry in Austin, Texas. He shares some thoughts on why he left and insights into how he knew it was time to go in this post.

Sam’s been in the same place for 14 years and argues you ought to stay much longer than you might think.

Clearly, I’ve stayed for two decades in the same place. And I feel like I’m here indefinitely.

So would do you know it might be time to leave?

Here are 7 signs that would demonstrate to me it’s time to move on. If you see them in your situation, it might be time to go.

time to leave

1. You’ve lost your passion

We all lose passion some days. Your passion might even disappear for a short season. It happens to all of us. That’s actually not a reason to move on.

Loss of passion might be a sign you’re burning out, or it could be that you need some rest or another adjustment. Moving to a new church won’t solve that kind of passion-loss. In fact, it might make it worse.

But one sign your time in a place could be drawing to a close is that you’re basically healthy but your passion for that particular ministry is gone.

You’re still passionate about life. You’re passionate about other things. You may even be passionate about other ministries or other opportunities.

It’s just your passion for ministry in that place and time has vaporized.

If that’s the case, it’s a sign the end may be near. Why?

Because a passionless leader is an ineffective leader.

2. There’s no other role you could get excited about

Just because your passion is fading in one area doesn’t mean your tenure at a church is over.

Last year, I knew I didn’t want to leave my church but I found my passion for the things I was doing getting narrower.

After what was truly a few incredible months of prayer and processing with mentors and our elders, I transitioned from the Lead Pastor role at my church (being the Lead Pastor is the only role I’ve held in a church since I started) into a Founding and Teaching Pastor role.

The result? I love it. My passion is back, stronger than ever, and I’m completely excited about the future of our church.

I got to keep the parts of my job I’m most passionate about and throw my weight behind our mission for a whole new season.

If you want more on the transition (many of you have asked) I’ll share the entire story in an upcoming episode of my Leadership Podcast. (If you subscribe for free, the episode will automatically download to your phone or device when it releases.)

Your renewal may not come from leaving, but simply changing what you’re doing where you are. Just switch roles.

3. You’ve affected all the change you can

Another sign it’s time to leave is simply this: you’ve affected all the change you can.

Maintaining what you’ve built never advances your mission because it elevates what happened yesterday over what could happen today and tomorrow.

Sometimes leaders realize they’ve done as much as they can.

Perhaps a new leader will need to come in to pick up where the current leader left off because the current leader has done everything they know how to do.

Or sometimes a leader’s desire to change exceeds the congregation’s willingness to change, despite long conversations about the need to change.

How do you know your church is done changing? In this post, I outline 7 signs your church will never change.

When your church won’t change or you can no longer lead that change, it might be time to go. Otherwise, all your best days will be behind you.

And when your best days are behind you, it’s time for a new future.

4. Your vision no longer lines up with the organization’s vision

The ideal leadership environment is when the leader’s vision and the organization’s vision line up.

Naturally, a leader will always be a little ahead of the church or organization—otherwise he or she wouldn’t be a leader.

But over time, the leader’s vision and the organization’s vision can become out of sync.

Sometimes the leader has more vision than the church can handle (see Point 3 above). And sometimes the organization wants to go faster or head in a more progressive direction than the leader.

Or sometimes the visions just become different.

Great leadership requires a syncing of the leader’s vision with the organization’s direction. When that’s not true, great leadership becomes impossible.

5. You feel like a fish out of water

This is a bit of an odd one, but I’ve had it happen to me more than once—not at our church, but with different organization’s I’ve partnered with.

Sometimes you fit really well into an organization; the cultural sync is perfect. You are what they are about and they are what you’re about…or at least as close as you can get this side of heaven.

But as time goes on, you change or the organization changes. Maybe your values shift. Or as you grow as a leader, you morph into a different kind of leader than you used to be.

Maybe you’re largely the same but the organization shifts, not in terms of vision, but in terms of style, culture and feel.

The best way I can describe how that feels when it’s happened to me is that I end up feeling like a fish out of water.

What used to be so natural and easy now makes me feel like I just don’t fit—for whatever reason.

When you no longer feel like you fit, you’ll never realize your full potential as a leader. And the organization won’t realize their potential either.

6. Your excitement about what’s happening elsewhere is greater than your passion for what’s happening where you are

When you’re more excited about someone else’s future than your organization’s future, you’re in trouble.

Nobody should be more passionate about a church’s future than a leader. Why? No church’s passion for the mission will ever exceed the passion of its leader. Sure, for a week it can. Or a month. But never for long.

If your passion for what’s happening elsewhere is greater than your passion for what’s happening where you are, it’s almost impossible to stay where you are.

Naturally, you would have to make sure you’re not struggling with a ‘grass is greener’ scenario, but sometimes you genuinely are not.

7. Your inner circle agrees

All of these signs notwithstanding, how do you know you’re reading the situation correctly?

Answer? You don’t.

But other people do.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate and consult an inner circle of people who know you well. If you’re married, your spouse will have great insight into whether you’re reading the signs accurately.

In addition, every leader should have an inner circle of at least 3 to 5 people who know them well enough and love them deeply enough to tell them the truth.

I get emails all the time from leaders who ask me whether they should stay in their job or go, and I always tell them: go ask someone who knows you and knows the situation. I hate it when they email me back and tell me they don’t have anyone like that.

I honestly can’t help them, and they’ve left themselves isolated and prone to making bad decisions. No ‘expert’ can help them in a case like that.

I have no idea whether they should stay or go other than to send them a post like this and tell them to prayerfully apply it to their situation with the counsel of people around them.

I could never have made the move – or would  have made the move –  I made last year into a Founding and Teaching Pastor role without the input of not only my inner circle, but also about a dozen other close friends and associates who weighed in on my decision.

I definitely prayed about it at length, but we prayed about it at length, too. And we talked about it—openly and honestly, weighing all the pros and cons before making a decision.

After all, if you’re the only one who thinks it’s a good idea, it’s probably not a good idea.

Want More?

I had a great conversation with former Catalyst CEO Brad Lomenick on why he left Catalyst at the height of its success in this episode of my leadership podcast. You can listen to Episode 27 direct on iTunes or Google Play or below.

And make sure you check out Sam and Kenny’s posts about staying and leaving for their perspective.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

talking about money in church

7 Fresh Ways To Get Over Your Fear of Talking About Money In Church

So let me guess, every time you need to talk about money in church, you wince.

And you’re the leader.

I know, because I’ve been there.

If you’re going to be effective in ministry, you have to become comfortable talking about money.

Yet few church leaders I know are.

Here’s why.

When you talk about money, it’s like you’re setting yourself up to be shot at. You almost always take bullets when you talk about money, even when you speak about it as earnestly, biblically and honestly as you know how.

As a result, many pastors avoid the subject and only talk about it if there’s a financial crisis looming for the church.

That’s the biggest mistake you can make. It sets no one up to win: not the church, not your people, and not you as a leader.

But you have to talk about it. Why? Because there’s so much at stake if you don’t.

Pastors who refuse to talk about money can ultimately leave both their churches and their people broke.

The message we continually hear from the culture around us leads people to overextension on things that matter little in the end and can also result in dissolving families (see below).


It’s Not Hopeless…Really

I know what it’s like to lead with very meager resources as well as what it’s like to lead with more.

When I began in ministry, three small churches called me to be their pastor.

The annual budget for one of the churches was $4,000. No, I’m not kidding. No, there are no missing zeros. Added together, the budget of all three churches was less than $50,000 for the year. The doors were almost closing.

But seeing resources freed up for ministry has made a big difference. More than 2,500 people now call our church home, and we see over 1,000 of them every weekend. Today our church is vibrant, healthy and alive (and I’m so thankful for that).

What’s even better is how we’ve seen people who attend our church become financially healthy in their personal life and as that’s happened, millions of dollars have been freed for ministry.

But to get there, you have to get over your fear of talking about money.

7 Fresh Ways To Get Over Your Fear of Talking About Money In Church

One of the best ways to talk about money is to realize why you need to talk about it. And the why will lead you to the how…giving you content for your messages and for other strategies as you connect with people.

Here are 7 fresh ways to get over your fear of talking about money in church:

1. Realize the people you lead talk about money every day

Think about it. Do you know a person who doesn’t talk about money in some way every day?

There’s not a family in your church or community that doesn’t have some kind of daily dialogue about money.

People talk about it, argue about it, and try to make their plans around it.

Almost everyone in your church and community thinks about money daily and talks about it daily. They may even struggle with it daily. It’s just that few people step up to help them with it.

As a result, people talk about money in a theological vacuum because few church leaders will talk about it.

So start talking about it.

2. View talking about money as pastoral care

Could it be that your reluctance to talk about money is costing people their marriages?

Reports continue to show that money issues are a top reason families break up.

In a culture of plenty burdened by massive personal debt and a lack of fulfilment around money, families are looking for hope and help.

If the church won’t help people figure out how to handle their personal finances, who will?

The scripture is packed with practical advice and missional claim on personal finances that can literally change people’s lives.

Why hold out on people? Who will bring them help or hope if you don’t?

3. Help people plan their financial future, not just yours

Addressing money in your church shouldn’t just be about your needs in ministry.

Too many leaders only think about their church’s need when it comes to money. Wise leaders think about their congregation’s needs when it comes to money.

If you help people plan their personal financial future, you’ll have a better future as a church.

The tagline we came up with a few years ago is that we want people to live with margin and live on mission.

I started telling people I wanted them to pay cash for their next vacation, to save for their children’s education, to save for retirement, to create an emergency fund and to live generously.

I think people were shocked that a preacher a) wanted them to take a vacation, b) wanted them to pay cash for it,  c) offered a program to help them realize their financial goals and d) didn’t expect all their money to go to the church.

One of the best things we’ve done in the last 5 years has been taking hundreds of adults and students through the Financial Learning Experience. It’s a two-hour forum designed to help people master the basics of financial planning and realize their dreams. There are follow up small groups and individual coaching you can also offer.

My joy as a leader is to see hundreds of people paying cash for their vacations, saving for their kids’ education, saving for retirement AND giving generously to the Kingdom.

But that only happens if you want something FOR people, not just something FROM them.

4. Understand you’re slaying a giant idol

If the world (and church) have an idol, money is a prime candidate.

So know up front you’re going to get push back when you address it. But if you help people with their finances as a ministry and steward the money that’s received appropriately, you will help break the power of an idol in our culture and church.

When you attack an idol, prepare for a counter-attack.

It’s easier not to fall victim to the criticism or internal battles that the attack brings when you realize the attack is coming.

5. Tap into the desire most people have to be generous

Most people want to be generous. They just need help with how.

When you can’t make your minimum credit card payments, even a $20 donation to the food bank seems out of reach.

When you help people get their finances in order, generosity can be unleashed. And more people want to be generous than you think. They just need help getting there.

6. Your vision and stewardship must be worth the sacrifice people make

When people give, you receive a measure of trust from both people and from God.

You need to steward and manage the money well. Things like a third party independent annual audit (which is expensive, but worth it) should be the norm.

And your vision and mission should be compelling and up to the challenge.

People don’t give generously to uninspiring or poorly stewarded visions.

7. Unchurched people are more open to conversations about money than you realize

Because most of our growth comes from unchurched people, I hear this all the time: “But what about unchurched people? Don’t they cringe when churches talk about money?”

Sure, sometimes. But see points 1-3 above. Surprisingly, unchurched people love to talk about money when they realize you’re ready to help them.

In my experience, the people who raise the most fuss when it comes to talking about money in the church are long-time church attenders who don’t give much.

I can’t prove that statistically, but it resonates with my experience and intuition.

Don’t let the people who never give ruin your ministry to people who want to give.

Want More?

Nothing has helped us more with raising money for day to day ministry than the coaching and strategy offered by Giving Rocket (affiliate link).

Giving Rocket actually has a 14 day free trial on its core program. You can sign up for it here.

So…what issues are you encountering in the conversation around money in your church? Or, what’s helped you have the conversation in your church?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Congregation Is Insider-Focused

So many churches that aren’t growing wonder why they’re not growing.

Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing about your church or a friend’s church.

Of course, people point to many reasons why their church isn’t growing (I cover 10 frequent reasons in this post), but underneath all of them is one root cause: insider-focus.

Churches that stop growing almost always have lost their heart for outsiders.

Even if many say they’re still passionate about reaching new people, their actions deny their intentions.

So how do you know whether your church is focused on insiders?

Here are 5 tell-tale signs:


1. Personal preference drives decision-making

In insider-focused churches, member preference rules. Everything from the preaching to the music to the programming gets evaluated through the lens of whether people ‘like’ it or not.

As a result, people-pleasing rules. As soon as a church leader hears that member X isn’t happy, the expectation is that the leader will try to placate the member or make the changes necessary to keep him or her attending.

The challenge is there is zero objective standard.

The standard is whether people like it.

As a leader, you end up playing whack-a-mole because different people ‘like’ different things, and no one can agree on what they like. Which is exactly why churches end up adding far too much variety to their services and too much programming to their menus.

In your attempt to please everyone, you please no one. And besides, as I outline in this post, your church can’t be for everyone anyway.

Regardless, if personal preference drives decision-making, you will always make bad decisions.

2. Emotion trumps mission

Insider-focused churches have a mission, it’s just that no one lives by it because emotion trumps mission.

How does that happen?

Because members are so bent on pleasing themselves, discussion about future direction becomes very emotional: it becomes about what people feel, who’s happy, who’s not happy, who’s thinking of leaving, who might stay if X changes, and what would need to happen for people to be satisfied again.

As a result, leaders make emotional decisions trying to appease the unappeasable, and congregations react in kind: emotionally.

Lost in all of this is one thing: the mission to reach people.

3. Sacrifice is non-existent

In an insider-focused church, no one sacrifices anything for the sake of others, because people believe others ought to sacrifice to please them.

If the church exists to make you happy, why wouldn’t people sacrifice more to make you happier?

In outsider-focused churches, the opposite is true.

Insiders sacrifice for the sake of outsiders. They realize that when they give, others live. That when they decide the church isn’t about them, the find a joy that is so elusive to selfish people.

Externally focused churches realize that sacrifice for the sake of others is a pathway to joy.

Internally focused congregations never understand that.

4. Any growth is mostly transfer growth

Do some internally-focused churches grow? Sure…that can happen.

But it’s not real growth. It’s not mission-induced growth.

In an insider-focused church, almost all the growth that takes place (if any happens at all) is transfer growth. Not the kind of transfer growth that happens when a new Christian family comes to town or a family makes a once-in-a-decade move to a new church.

The transfer growth that insider-focused churches usually attract is the kind of growth that attracts serial church shoppers.

And guess what transfer growth often looks for? A church to make them happy. (I wrote a post on the challenges of transfer growth here.)

Best wishes with trying to make them happy.

5. Innovation is dead or on life-support

Most insider-focused congregations aren’t excited about the future, they’re afraid of it.

For the most part, insider-focused churches cling stubbornly to the present or the past, preferring the way things are or the way things used to be over the way things could be.

As a result, innovation dies. New ideas are shot down. Anything that would reach people who currently aren’t being reached  is viewed with suspicion or even called ‘unfaithful.’

Members end up liking their church ‘just the way it is,’ which usually means they like it smaller and smaller every year.

So What’s the Antidote?

The antidote to insider-focus is simple: your mission.

One of the best ways to refocus your mission is this: focus on who you want to reach, not on who you want to keep. I learned that truth years ago from my friend Reggie Joiner, a co-founder of North Point Church and now CEO of Orange. Reggie is so right.

An external focus will beat insider drift every day, all day.

So, shift your focus. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep.

Will you anger some members? Yes.

But they will have other churches to go to. The unchurched don’t.

Any Thoughts?

If you want more, I write about the changes the church needs to make to get healthy and reach people we’re not reaching in my book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Any other signs of insider-focused churches you’d like to share?

executive assistant

How NOT to Sabotage Your Team

Today’s post is a guest post by Tricia Sciortino, president of eaHELP, one of our partners on the blog and on my Leadership Podcast

By Tricia Sciortino

As pastors, directors of special ministries, worship leaders, educators and administrators in the church, we know the call to serve is paramount. You strive to grow, nurture, provide for and support our communities and congregations.

But you also must do so in ways that demonstrate stewardship and competent leadership.

People believe in you. They depend on you. And your congregants are relying and counting on your steady hand to direct the organization forward. But with so many moving pieces, so many competing and continuous demands, it can become a challenge to manage everything.

It’s not uncommon, though, for leaders to experience some growing pains when they first hire a virtual assistant. They’re so accustomed to managing everything, to being hands-on with very routine tasks, that it can be hard to let go. But as the president of eaHELP, I’ve learned how pastoral and ministerial clients can avoid unintentionally sabotaging their virtual executive assistant. Sometimes this can happen quite accidentally, despite the best-laid plans or good intentions.

executive assistant

We are only human, after all, and there’s only so much an individual can – or should – do.

There is the day-to-day administration, the calendars and scheduling, the meetings and reporting, and even the special projects, new events and even just the process of getting the word out as you seek to grow and bring others to Christ.

There are weekly preparations, daily commitments and the longer-term planning of what you hope, aim and plan to do in the future.

At eaHELP, we help many leaders and ministers just like you who have recognized they would benefit from some extra support.

In fact, we specialize in matching virtual administrative and executive assistants with leaders and organizations of many types, and we’ve honed in on the unique needs of the church. We have a team of more than 400 home-based administrative assistants who partner with people like you to make life less hectic, projects less monumental and general operations more efficient.

When you have a dedicated expert to manage schedules, arrange travel, update databases, conduct outreach, respond to emails and perform bookkeeping, imagine how much easier your life becomes.

Here are some insights to help you make the most of the dedicated help which companies like ours provides. Following these tips can ensure a satisfying, productive experience for all involved – for you as the leader, for the assistant as your administrative partner and for the service provider who matches both sides of the equation.

Don’t Just Task – Empower

Somewhere along the way, the perception of what executive assistants really offer became too simplistic. Yes, administrative assistants can answer calls and make copies, but the reality is that they do much more than that. Sometimes that work happens behind the scenes and is not always within full view.

Think of a quality executive assistant as the mystery ingredient in an incredible recipe; it’s the one element that brings it all together, but you may not even see it, smell it or taste it.

Plus, executive assistants often bring a level of disciplinary expertise that can be valuable to your efforts. These insights and knowledge could pertain to member outreach, operational organization, research and reporting, or marketing and media.

Churches always have reports to produce, and social media is more of a must than an “if” or “when” these days. Emerging, developing and established ministries alike often have complex calendars to manage, and getting the word out is a consistent concern of churches as they grow. Seek and solicit your assistant’s input where it counts, and you’ll cultivate a professional “right hand” who can help you more than you ever thought possible.

Don’t Infer – Express

Based on their aptitude and experience, executive assistants are often pros in proactively identifying needs and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a leader, can go work on other things and leave your assistant operating in isolation. An avoidable error in the administrative assistant-client relationship is a gulf in clarifying needs and expectations.

Even if your assistant is performing according to expectations, it never hurts to offer constructive feedback. Be sure to volunteer your guidance about her ideas on how to execute an existing or new task.

Offer specifics about key contacts she may interact with, bringing beneficial context to her conversations and interactions. Executive assistants need to hear from you to ensure you’re not only singing from the same hymnal but that you are synced to same song and verse.

Don’t Conceal Your Quirks

Quite naturally, over time your virtual assistant learns more about you as the client, picking up on your verbal cues and gestures. Everyone has quirks – let’s call them pet peeves or preferences. If we take just a few minutes to do some self-reflection, each of us could probably name at least three work-related deal breakers of our own based on personal ideals or specific ways of being.

On occasion, these unknown quirks can emerge at inopportune times. For example, let’s say you ask your virtual assistant to create a new report about a developing program. She creates the report, but as you review it, you see that it’s not color-coded in a way you would prefer and even features a shade you absolutely never use in documents. There’s nothing wrong with the report itself; however, your preferences represent an affinity that she could not have known unless you informed her.

Miscommunication, bruised feelings and instances like these can be minimized through honest, clear conversations and fuller disclosure on the front end.

Don’t Be a Closed Book

Of course, you must establish and preserve professional boundaries at all times with your executive assistant. But that doesn’t mean you should erect a fortress between you and your administrative support partner.

The truth is that our private life does affect work life. You don’t have to completely “spill the beans,” but it may strengthen your virtual assistant’s performance and perspective if she knows about your kids’ demanding schedule of extracurricular activities, that you’re traveling overseas with your spouse for three weeks in the spring or that you have an upcoming medical procedure that’s been weighing heavily on your mind.

Want More?

Communication, continuity and consistency are some key ingredients in the successful recipe of an executive assistant-leader relationship. When both sides understand each other and are vested in the benefits of an effectively shared partnership, what materializes can be absolutely game changing for you, your ministry and your highest calling.

Trust me. We see the results every day.

Want more information on getting help with your team? Contact us free of charge.

In the meantime, what have you found helpful in working with an EA? Scroll down and leave a comment.

top leaders

5 Things Every Leader Should Tell Their Top Leaders

If you could only tell your top leaders a few things, what would you tell them?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one I was asked recently as I spoke to the senior leadership team and staff at Next Level Church in Florida.

It was a good challenge to distill years of leadership experience, mistakes and insights into five key learnings.

Here’s what I came up with.

I’d love for you to add your suggestions and top learnings to the mix in the comments below.


1. Your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you

As a young leader, I was 100% convinced that competency was the key to effectiveness in leadership.

I no longer believe that’s true.

Sure, competency is important. Incompetence doesn’t get you or your mission very far.

But competency isn’t the ceiling many leaders hit. Character is.

Why is that?

Well, all of us can name highly gifted pastors, politicians, athletes and other public figures who failed not because they weren’t competent, but because they weren’t up for the job morally. An addiction, an affair, embezzlement or honestly sometimes just being a jerk caused them to lose their job or lose their influence.

This is why I’ve come to believe your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you.

So what do you need to do to ensure you character doesn’t undermine your talent?

Work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.

I know that’s difficult to do but do it.

Cultivate a daily habit of prayer and scripture reading. Go see a counsellor before you need to. Have great people around you who have permission to tell you the truth. Do the soul work you need to do to animate your other work.

It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted you are if you disqualify yourself from leadership.

2. Abandon balance and embrace passion

Almost everyone in leadership would advise you to lead a balanced life.

I’m not so sure.

What if that’s the wrong goal?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone should work 80 hours a week.

But here’s my struggle.

I think we find many circles in our culture where balance has become a synonym for mediocrity. Don’t work too hard. Don’t be intentional about your time. Just be balanced.

Here’s what I’ve seen.

Most people who accomplish significant things aren’t balanced people. They’re passionate people.

They are passionate about:

Their job.

Their family.

Their hobby.

In fact, they’re often even passionate about their nutrition and their rest.

They never see work as a job…they see it as a calling. As a quest. As a mission.

They can’t wait to get up in the morning and attack the day.

When they engage relationally, they’re fully present.

When they’re with their family, they’re with their family. They give everything they have to everything that’s important to them.

So do a variety of things (work, play, family), but allocate your energy so you can do everything you do, including rest and relaxation, with passion.

I love what John Wesley said:

“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

I never want to lose my passion. In fact, I’m praying that it intensifies as I grow older in everything I pursue.

Don’t let balance become a synonym for mediocrity. Balance is a retreat. Passion is an advance. So passionately pursue all you do.

If you’re intrigued by how to better manage your time, energy and priorities, I’m launching a new resource this fall called the High Impact Leader. It’s a 10-unit video course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

If you want to get on the inside track of the launch of the High Impact Leader, sign up here.

3. Pursue your health

So many leaders struggle with staying healthy in leadership… spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally and financially.

One way to look at leadership is to see it as a series of deposits and withdrawals.

All day long as a leader, people and the mission make a series of withdrawals from you: someone needs to meet with you, another person needs counselling, a third needs advice, a fourth wants to get that report done asap.

If you think of your life as a leader like a bank account, the problem eventually becomes the ratio of deposits to withdrawals. Over the long run, if you make more withdrawals than deposits, you go bankrupt.

That’s exactly what happens to far too many leaders.

The withdrawals that happen to you in life and leadership are inevitable. You can manage them well or poorly (which is something we’ll help you master in the High Impact Leader course).

Here’s the thing, though: the withdrawals never go away.

It’s your responsibility to make the deposits.

This means applying the spiritual disciplines, physical disciplines, financial disciplines and the discipline to get the help you need to resolve your emotional and personal issues.

Here’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself and I would love every top leader to ask themselves daily: am I living today in a way that will help me thrive tomorrow? Spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, and financially?

If not, why not?

Since I started asking that question, I’m far healthier. It’s a recipe that works. Start using it.

4. Understand that attendance no longer drives engagement, engagement drives attendance

It’s interesting to me that we didn’t get to a strategy insight until the fourth insight. The top three pieces of advice are all heart and character issues, which is exactly as it should be.

But in the church, the strategy you apply also matters. So here we go.

As North American culture becomes more and more post-Christian, declining attendance has become a universal phenomenon (here are 10 reasons why that’s happening).

The current approach to church has largely been driven by getting people to attend. The idea is this: get them in the door and hopefully at some point, they’ll engage in the mission.

But in an age where fewer and fewer people are motivated to attend church at all, that’s a bad strategy.

Instead, if you want to see your church grow, stop trying to attract people and start working on engaging people.

Why? Because engaged people attend.

The more engaged you are in the mission, the more likely you’ll want to be part of the church.

In the future church, only the engaged will attend. So do what you can to drive engagement.

Want more? Here are 7 ways to drive engagement.

5.  Play favourites

My guess is you spend 80% of your time trying to help your struggling leaders get better.

They’re producing maybe 20% of your results, but you’re devoting 80% of your time trying to motivate them, get them to show up on time and get them to do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

What if that’s a colossal mistake?

What if you spent 80% of your time with the leaders who give you 80% of your organization’s results?

That’s what the best leaders do: they spend 80% of their time with the people who give them 80% of their results.

What do you do with the bottom 20%? Let them go or let them figure it out on their own. Or limit your involvement to 20% of your time.

Your best leaders get better with time and attention. Poor leaders never do.

So try it…spend 80% of your time on the people that produce 80% of your results.

I know… I know… you’re pushing back. I get that. You think this isn’t a Christian thing to do. I’m not sure sure you’re right.

You’re afraid that playing favourites isn’t biblical.

Just the opposite. Not playing favorites makes you unfaithful.

I know, I know….what?????

Moses tried to treat everyone the same, and it almost killed him and wore out the people he led (just read Exodus 18).

The solution? Moses had to learn not to treat everyone the same.

He appointed leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The result was that the people’s needs were met and Moses got to lead for the rest of his life. His leadership (finally) scaled.

If you start to look for it as you read, you’ll see organizational principles throughout Scripture (how did Israel become a great nation after all?)

For example, even in the New Testament, Jesus and early Christian leaders didn’t treat everyone alike.

Jesus actually walked away from people who needed to be healed in order to get food and rest.

Jesus organized his disciples into circles according to potential impact…groups of 70, 12, 3 (Peter, James and John) and 1 (Peter) and intentionally spent the most time with those inner circles.

The early church reorganized and mmoved their key teachers and preachers away from daily tasks and appointed new leaders, which fuelled new growth.

Loving everyone the same does not mean treating everyone the same way.

So if you want to be more biblically faithful, start treating different people differently.

What do you think?

Those are my top 5. What are yours?

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

And if you want more, I outlined 7 critical issues every church needs to deal with in my latest book.