21 Leadership and Life Lessons I Learned from Reggie Joiner

21 Leadership and Life Lessons I've Learned From Reggie Joiner

I have been at the Orange Conference 2013 this week in Atlanta. If you’ve never been you’re missing out.

This is not an unbiased account, just so you know. I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Reggie over a number of years. We have written together, traveled together and spoken together.

But more than that, he’s become one of my best friends and he’s been an incredibly positive influence on my leadership.  He also officiated at my son’s wedding last year. I so appreciate his friendship and leadership.

While Reggie Joiner is passionate about families, he’s also one of the very best leaders I’ve ever met – anywhere. He’s creatively brilliant and strategically laser focused. And he’s an incredible friend to many.  I think anyone who knows Reggie would agree.

But I thought you might like to learn from Reggie the way I’ve learned from him. So I thought I’d highlight 21 leadership lessons I’ve learned from Reggie over the years.

Let’s start with some lessons on life, family and relationships:

1. Your legacy is going to be most important to the people you’re with right now. Invest in the people closest to you. I have seen this modeled in Reggie’s life. His investment in time and care in the people who know him is second to none. Although he leads thousands of people, he leads the few around him with completely commitment and humility.

2. The environment you want to create is one where no matter how far people might stray they want to come back. When people ask me what Reggie’s like, I tell them “He’s a creative genius…one of the smartest people I’ve ever met…he’s deeply relational.”  All of that is true. But he also just loves people and knows how to value them in their worst moments. If I was ever ended up in the moral ditch, I would ask for Reggie to come help me get out. He creates the kind of environment where no matter how far people stray, they would want to come back.

3. Nobody has more influence in the life of a child than a parent. Fact. Which is why no parent can ignore the 3000 hours of influence God gives us each year.

4. A parent is not the only influence a child needs. God never designed parents to handle their kids all alone.

5. Two combined influences have a greater impact than just two influences. When you combine the influences of church and family, you get something more powerful, like when red and yellow combine to produce Orange.

6. 100 years from now, the only thing that will matter in the life of a child is their relationship with God. Bam. If that isn’t perspective, what is? I have a coaster in my home I use every day for my morning tea. That’s what it says on the coaster.

7. God doesn’t use perfect pictures. He uses broken people. The ideal family doesn’t exist. Just read your bibles and breathe a sigh of relief. Most biblical families were just as dysfunctional as yours.

8. God wants to tell the story of redemption and restoration in every family. God meets us where we are, not where we think we should have been.

9. God’s story of redemption in a parent’s life gives a child a front row seat to the grace of God. When God begins to work in a parent’s life, the kids get a front row seat to grace. So beautiful. And true.

10. Every child needs another voice saying the same thing a loving parent would say. This may have saved my sanity as my kids move through their teenager years. Even though they might not want to tell me anything, they had other adults in their life they could talk to. Powerful.

11. You need to pursue strategic relationship for your kids before you need them so that they’re there when they need them. When you prioritize small group friendships and adult leaders who serve as mentors early, you set kids up for success.

12. People will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do. That’s why in Orange ministry, we give teens and even pre-teens significant opportunities to serve.

13. The Church convinced me for years that I was supposed to love people who are different, but they never gave me permission to like people who are different. Bam. Reggie has one of the most progressive minds I know when it come to thinking about who the church needs to be, how we need to act and what we need to do to love and like the people who are different than us. (The future of the church probably lies in our response to that issue by the way).

14.  The most important fight you can have is the fight for the heart. Reggie taught me what it was like to fight for people, not with people. My life will never be the same as a result.

And let’s finish up with some leadership principles

15. Push others into the spotlight. I don’t think anyone I know does this better than Reggie. He loves raising up leaders, handing over the mic, standing to the side and helping other leaders succed.

16. Change isn’t an option. How you respond to it is. I love talking/writing about change. Reggie nails it in this quote.

17. Strategic steps beat random programs. Reggie taught me to think steps, not programs. Our church is so much healthier as a result.

18. The problem with needs based ministry is there’s no end to need. Every time someone says “I see a need we should respond to”, I think about this quote from Reggie. You could go there as a church, but just know you are never going to solve every need you see. So we just pick one or two and go deep.

19.  Your strategy ultimately determines the success of your ministry. Effective ministry is not just about great content, mission or vision it’s about having a great strategy. A poor strategy will frustrate the execution of a great mission.

20. Teach Less For More. To cut through the communication noise our culture suffers from, teach fewer things for greater impact. All information is not equally helpful, relevant or engaging.

21. Focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep. I always wanted to be about unchurched people, but this principle changed my focus more anything else.

Those are 21 leadership and life lessons I learned from Reggie Joiner.

What have you learned from Reggie?


  1. […] maybe that’s two questions, but two good ones. Kill what’s not working. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, “It doesn’t take a leader to kill something that’s dead. It takes a leader to kill […]

  2. […] Thank you to Pastor Kent Chevalier from Northway Christian Community for sharing this! […]

  3. Chris Shumate on May 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Number 18 is great. I have seen people leave the church I attend because the church wasn’t on board with that person’s envisioned need they wanted to fill. Those people leave because they want their own ministry instead of joining the church with its mission.

    I am going to write something called “21 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Carey and Reggie” via “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity”. 21 items seems to be a magic number.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

      21 is 3 sevens. How can you lose?

  4. Brent Dumler on April 29, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t think I would even try to add to such a thorough list. I would like to comment, however. #1 reads “Your legacy is going to be most important to the people you’re with right now. Invest in the people closest to you.” This is very important. As church leaders, it can be easy to get swept up in the bigger ‘Great Commission’ scheme of things (reaching the world) and almost completely neglect our spouse, kids, friends, and even our staff team. I’m thankful for voices of people like you and Reggie in my life and ministry. Have a great week!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 30, 2013 at 6:45 am

      So good to meet you last week Brent…and thanks for your ‘value added’ comments on the blog. I always look forward to them!

  5. Cands on April 29, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Thank you Carey for taking the time to share this. It is so helpful and really challenging to me as a young leader.

  6. Amy Fenton Lee on April 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Yes! Knowing Reggie and working under him, I agree with every point. And I would add that you have modeled many of these same qualities for me as well.

    I am a better parent and better person just from being around you and Reggie.

  7. Chuck on April 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

    This “Reggie’s Greatest Hits” really outlines how my wife and I got on board the Orange train coming from two different angles. Her from the Family Ministry end, and me from the Spiritual Leadership end. Then we became parents! Ha! God is great! Go get ’em, Carey!

  8. Mike Berry on April 26, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Carey, I would agree with this wholeheartedly. The entire Orange movement has been defining for me personally and thousands of other leaders. Thanks for this post!

    • Mike Berry on April 26, 2013 at 7:18 am

      I would add to this that personally Reggie has inspired creativity and caused me to continually look at children & student ministry from relevant and fresh perspectives.

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