Very rarely does success come from jumping from one venture to another every few years.

And very rarely does long term impact happen from short term tenure.

And yet in ministry and in life, people often jump from venture to venture or church to church hoping the next fit is better than the last fit, only to be perpetually disappointed.

One of the things that characterizes most leaders who make an impact in our generation is staying power. Andy Stanley has been at North Point since he started it 19 years ago.

Rick Warren has served at Saddleback for three decades. Craig GroeschelPerry NobleSteven Furtick and so many more have all had or are working on long term ministries.


Many Leaders Leave Before Their Critical Breakthrough

In my view too many leaders leave too often before critical breakthroughs happen.

Most people who become ‘overnight’ successes have put in a decade or more before anything really note-worthy has happened.

I’m not saying leaders should never leave. In fact, here’s a post outlining 5 signs it’s time to move on.

It’s just if you go too early, you can miss out on so much.


5 Things Long Term Leaders Learn to Master

Here are 5 things every leader who stays long term learns to master:


1.  Being unpopular

Long term leadership has seasons, and in some of those seasons you become unpopular.

Sometimes it’s a sign you need to work on something. So work on it.

But other times it’s because you’re committed to doing what people need, not simply what they want. That’s what great leaders do.

So sometimes you just have to be prepared to be misunderstood.

There are very few biblical characters who were ever perfectly understood.

Eventually, people will see what you were trying to do. Hang around long enough to let them see it.

Even if they never do, God does. Regardless, learning to withstand seasons of unpopularity builds your character and often is the key to getting important things done in leadership.


2. Personal growth

It’s easy to change an organization (at least at first), it’s much more difficult to change you.

To thrive long term you have to be relentlessly committed to personal growth.

Face your demons. Learn from your mistakes. And get the help you need to grow and get better.


3. Trusting God more than themselves

The change you can bring happens quickly.

Most of us are skilled enough to look good for a season and change things enough to bring progress.

But then we run out of ideas.

The change (transformation even) that God brings happens over time.

To sustain a long term vision for ministry requires a growing faith and trust in God.


4.  The character to withstand highs and lows

A great season doesn’t mean you’re great.

And a terrible season doesn’t mean you’re terrible.

You’re never as great as your best moment and never as terrible as your worst.

Long term leaders learn not to ride the highs too high or the lows too low.

They learn from each season while anticipating the next.


5.  Developing trusted inner circle

Most long term leaders I know have a circle of people who love them, are genuine friends and tell them the truth. These are the people who keep you grounded.

Quitters are often isolated.

It’s easier to pick people off one by one than in strong teams and groups.

If you want a few tips on how to develop an excellent inner circle, I blogged about it here.

Once again, it’s not that you should never leave, it’s just that you should never leave for the wrong reasons.

What has kept you in the game over the longer haul?

What skills have you mastered because you decided to stay?

Leave a comment!


  1. Brent Dumler on September 11, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Carey, there is so much packed in here that each of these points could easily be their own post. I’d even suggest that points #2 & #3 are so vital that if not in place, the other points you mentioned will suffer. I’ve seen these play out in my own ministry experience and in the lives of so many others I’ve worked with.

  2. Antone on September 9, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Some good reminders today, Carey. Total appreciate #5…so critical.

    In your question, you asked, “What has kept you in the game over the longer haul?” and I would say people. The more invested you are with those around you, you start to take on an ownership with them that transcends the mundane of the job itself. And I think that is the way God intended it to be.

    God recently transitioned me out of my former position in a college but I was there for 11 years through some difficulty situations. And bottom line, it was the students who kept “topping off my fuel tank.” We sharpened each other. And those brief refills (whether conversing in a hallway or doing lunch) pushed my thoughts past the tensions going on in my position. It reminded me of what has risen to the top even though God closed the door to my being there any longer. And those relationships are still enriching today.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Well said Antone…well said. Good on you for looking at the outcome of your mission. It can motivate and inspire in the worst of seasons. Thanks for this!

  3. Links for Your Weekend Reading | on September 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    […] Why a leader should never quit. […]

  4. Jennifer Reardon-Mcsoley on September 5, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    This came to me at the exact time I needed it! Love number 1 for sure. When you are a you just have to be ok that people will not like you simply because you are the boss. If you as the leader make the right choice for the collective whole then Ofcorse people will not like you PLUS people hate chane and a great leader embraces it, leads through it but suffers the lonely times when adjustment is happing. Best read of yours yet!!!

    I would love to hear your steps to overcome loneliness in leadership! It’s a real thing. Ya know what they say “it’s lonely at the top”

  5. Joe on September 3, 2014 at 9:18 am

    You’re kidding right? Great advise if you are the leader who is THE leader. But if you’re an associate. A great a great associate. Its just a matter of time before your leaders insecurities get the best of him and he concedes to let you go either because of his own inadequacies, or because your presence brings change that causes pressure on him. The church world is filled with too many burned out insecure leaders. If you stay in these situations long term you will get hurt.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Joe…sorry to hear that was your experience. That’s just a bad situation. However, the person I’m talking about in the article is not your boss, it’s you. What you’re talking about is another subject (and a great one at that). I will blog about that soon (thanks for the idea!). So this is really about when you hit a wall, not when your coworkers do. Hope that helps.

  6. prophetsandpopstars on September 1, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Yep! On one side of the coin, these are the hallmarks of perseverance, and on the other side, the very things that lead one to the choice of quitting.

    Well distilled, my man!

  7. Jon Stallings on September 1, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Great post Carey, yet it is so hard to live out. I have been known to be a “short term” guy myself. Seems like to be long term we have to realize that something is more important than just my own benefit.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Thanks so much John! That’s great self awareness on your part.

  8. Gary Davis on September 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for sharing Carey. These are spot on. In a culture where long term is no longer sought nor appreciated as in the past, it still has great value as long term leaders bring a stability that blesses the whole organization / church.

  9. Lawrence W. Wilson on September 1, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Carey, these are so right on. I think there might be a #6 also, something like “Resign yourself to the possibility that you never will be an ‘overnight success.'” Some of the “breakthrough” leaders I’ve known have said their big moment came after they quit chasing it and got comfortable with the journey.

    • prophetsandpopstars on September 1, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      It’s like that with so many things, isn’t it? The moment you stop seeking first all these things, and focus on the Kingdom of God (and its righteousness), these things just drop like a hit song.

  10. […] Carey Nieuwhof Very rarely does success come from jumping from one venture to another every few years. And very […]

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