If You Don’t Admit This, You’ll Fail

In a recent conversation with my friend and mentor, Lance Witt, I was confronted with a truth in my leadership that I already knew, but didn’t want to admit. Ready for it? As a leader, I have limits. I know what you’re saying, “Shocker! Of course, you do!” As leaders, we often see the limits of others much more quickly than we see our own, and I’d rather talk about others’ limits than my own. But here’s the deal, leaders hate to have limitations, and we certainly hate to address our own . While all of us in ministry have limits, we rarely address this truth until it’s too late. If we don’t admit and address our limits, we’ll fail ourselves and the people we’ve been entrusted to lead.

With the recent resignation of Pete Wilson, the senior pastor of Cross Point Nashville, more leaders are talking about limits, but talking about them isn’t enough. In fact, most leaders who talked about Pete’s story addressed his failure to acknowledge his limits, not their personal failure to admit and acknowledge their own limits within the ministry. If we’re going to make it in the long run of ministry, we’ll have to admit our limitations. I’ve already blogged about this in the past, but even Jesus, in all his humanity acknowledged his limits.

Mark 1:35-39 reads:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Did you see it? The disciples said, “everyone is looking for you” but Jesus’ response was, “Let us go somewhere else.” I don’t think Jesus was rejecting those looking for him, but he was focused on what and who was before him. As leaders, acknowledging our limitations begins with thinking about those who are before and not behind us. What I mean by this is that we have to allow our future self to help determine our current limitations.

We all have limited time, resources and energy, and when we address our limits, it’s best to do so with the perspective of the end in mind. How do we want to be remembered as a parent, spouse, or pastor when we’re gone? If I’m honest, it matters less about how we’re remembered as a pastor or leader. In my opinion, it matters more about what those closest to us will say about how we loved and cared for them.

Since my conversation with Lance, here’s what I’ve been thinking about limits:

  • When I don’t acknowledge my limits as a leader, everyone loses.
  • Limits are not designed to be pushed but to protect us.
  • Limits are daily reminders we can’t do everything for everyone.
  • Acknowledging our limitations increases our dependency and sufficiency in Christ.

Limits are for our good and should never be ignored. When we admit and address our limits as leaders. everyone wins. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the limitations of life and ministry. Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.

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4 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor

It’s that time of year. If you’ve grown up in the church, or have been on staff in a church for a long time, you know that every October Christian bookstores stock extra pastor appreciation cards and gifts for your senior pastor. Church staff members are taking to social media to thank and appreciate their senior pastor publicly for their hard work and sacrificial love. Cards, gifts, and Tweets are all excellent ways to acknowledge your pastor this month. That said, I don’t think we should stop there, and here are a few other ways to show your senior leader just how much you love and appreciate who they are and what they do:

1. Pray for your pastor(s).
As staff members and pastors, we pray a lot. We open and close our meetings in prayer, we pray with people who are sick or in need of hope, we pray for ourselves and our families often, but we don’t pray for our pastor enough. Praying for our senior pastor, his family, and the vision God has given is the greatest way we can appreciate him. I’ve also learned that the more I pray for my pastor, the more connected I feel to his vision.

Praying for our senior pastor(s) helps us as much as it helps them.

2. Protect your pastor’s family time.
Do you know when your pastor’s day off is? You should. Save that email or text message for the following day, or better yet, add it to your notes for your next meeting. There’s a culture in ministry right now of everyone protecting their day off at all costs; this is healthy, but we should be as determined to protect other team members days off too.

Show your pastor appreciation by honoring his day off and better preparing for your one-on-one meetings.

3. Grow yourself spiritually and guard your soul.
Being a part of church staff is an incredible privilege, and as with any privilege, there is a great responsibility. As a staff leader or pastor, we feel deeply responsible for the spiritual health of those we lead, but we are chiefly responsible for our personal growth and soul health first. Maintaining personal holiness and intentionally setting up guardrails is essential for longevity in ministry.

If we want to appreciate our pastor, we must keep growing as followers of Christ and guard the integrity of our soul.

4. Care and pastor the people they have entrusted to you.
No pastor wants to hear that the people in the church are not being cared for or followed up with promptly. Each staff member is an extension of the senior pastor’s love, especially when it comes to shepherding the flock under our care. Being responsive to people’s needs and genuinely concerned about their spiritual condition is for every leader, not just the senior leader.

The easiest way we can appreciate our pastor is by doing our job with passion and excellence.

Our pastors and senior leaders deserve all the love and respect we can give them, every day, not just in the month of October. Let’s show them how much we appreciate them by praying for them daily, protecting their time, growing ourselves spiritually, and by caring for those entrusted to our care.

One Way to Undermine Your Authority as a Leader

I grew up in a home with four sisters and one brother of which I was the youngest. I had very limited authority as a child in our home, and my siblings knew this. If that wasn’t enough, they also knew how to leverage my parents’ power to have greater control over my life. I heard these kind of phrases all the time: “Mom said…” or “Dad said…”. It took me a long time to figure out just what my brother and sisters were doing; they were using those phrases to get me to act, or not act, in certain ways for their benefit. Once I figured out what was going on, I realized my parents didn’t say those things, or at least not in the way they were telling me they did. The same concept is at play in churches and organizations today.

Too many ministry leaders use and abuse the position of their senior leaders with the phrase, “Pastor _________ said…”. Whenever we begin or end our meetings with a phrase that attempts to strike fear or accountability using our senior leader’s name, we do so at the expense of our authority. Senior leaders get blamed for a lot because of this approach, and what trickles down to our volunteers is motivation out of fear. As leaders within our churches, we need to learn how to execute our senior leaders’ visions without always tying their name or position to the job we need to get done.

The Apostle Paul modeled the control of authority in leadership for us in ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭NIV‬: “We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”

So how do we do this?

We must lead with confidence.
Our leaders have placed us in roles of influence because they believe we have the skillset to lead people from here to there, not to lead using their name as our final authority. We shouldn’t have to preface or conclude every meeting with statements that our senior pastor is asking this. We should have the confidence in our leadership position to carry out what they’ve asked us to do. This confidence is not in the title we have, but rather in our position to serve our senior leaders. If we have to use our title or the names of our leaders to get things done, we must reevaluate our ability to influence and lead effectively. If you find yourself using that strategy over and over again, make a commitment to lead with the confidence your leaders have placed in you. Replace “Pastor said…” with “here’s what we’re going to do together to accomplish this vision.”

We must lead with humility.
As leaders, we don’t always make the right decisions or say the right things. We live in a culture that says confidence is all you need to lead, but Jesus taught a different way. The greatest leaders are those who have learned the power of serving others, and humility. We must learn to lead with humility, serving with and for the people we lead. We should take full responsibility when our teams drop the ball, and give credit away for every success we experience. Most people want to serve under a leader who is confident in the direction the team is going, and humble enough to own the mistakes along the way. Replace “Pastor said…” with “we’re going to do this together.”

Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge. Simon Sinek

Leading with authority requires confidence in where your organization is going, and the humility to help it get there. Don’t undermine the trust your leadership has in you, lead with confident humility.

The Simplest Way to Develop Leaders and Strengthen Your Team

Everywhere I look I see books, articles, tweets, and posts on leadership development in the church. “Leadership development” seem to be buzzwords in the church that are not going anywhere fast, especially in the multisite context. Everyone is looking to deepen their leadership bench with worship leaders, student pastors, campus pastors, and the like. The problem is, few have found a model or system that works in their church context.

I recently heard Pastor Chris Hodges, from the Church of the Highlands, say that he has his next 33 campus pastors ready at any moment to launch a campus. What? 33 leaders developed and ready in their pipeline? And my friends from 12Stone Church in Atlanta, GA take leadership development serious at their church through the MAPS process. Dan Reiland has written a lot about their process on his blog, and you can read more about that here. What if your church isn’t as prepared as Highlands, or as intentional as 12Stone? Don’t wait any longer or blame anyone on your staff. Start with your team, get a simple plan, and use the Apostle Paul’s model.

The Apostle Paul has a simple pattern that we see in his leadership of Timothy in the New Testament. I saw five stages of leadership development from Paul:

Stage 1: Watch Me Do It.
In Acts 16:1-3 we read of Paul’s invitation of Timothy to join him on his missionary journeys. We can’t develop leaders if we are not intentionally inviting them to watch us. Who have you invited?

Stage 2: Do It With Me.
In Acts 16:4 we read that Paul and Timothy worked together in ministry. Timothy is included in six of Paul’s New Testament letters, because Paul never did ministry alone. Who are you inviting?

Stage 3: You Do It, I Watch.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we read his encouragement and edification to lead by example. Paul was constantly offering feedback and support to Timothy. Who are you watching, coaching, and positively critiquing to grow in their personal ministry skills?

Stage 4: You Do It.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we read his admonition that it was now Timothy’s time to begin developing other leaders: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). Who are you releasing?

Stage 5: Follow-Up & Invite Them Back
Paul closes his second letter to Timothy was a request that Timothy would come back and visit him. Paul had a special relationship with Timothy, and he wanted that relationship to continue even after Timothy was fully trained. Developing others is a tremendous privilege and responsibility of every leader in ministry, and these relationships often last a lifetime. Who are you investing in that you would want to know in 15 years from now?

Leadership development must be intentional, but it doesn’t have to be institutional.

Look at those God has entrusted to your care, determine their stage in the process of development, and begin moving them forward. When it comes to developing leaders, you don’t need a program or a pipeline, you just need to be proactive and purposeful.

I’d love to hear how you’re developing leaders in your multisite context, comment below.