A Much Better Way to Respond to Unsolicited Advice

Does everyone seem to be an unsolicited advice giver in your church?

I mean, how often do you hear, “Can I give you just a small suggestion?

I get it. I critique everything we do, as well. When you are a part of something, you want it to be great. When you serve and give to a church, you want your time and resources to be leveraged in the best way possible. Unfortunately, “great” is quite subjective. Every opinion is just that — an opinion. Good, bad, or terrible. (Insert pithy quote about armpits and … you know the rest.)

“The music is so loud.” “Too quiet.” “Too bassy.” “Not thumping enough.” 
“The sermon is too long.” “Too short.” “Not helpful.” “TOO helpful (substitute convicting).”
“It’s too crowded.”
“Somebody sat in my seat.”
“There wasn’t enough … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”
“There was too much … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”

I’m sure everyone means well, but hearing this week in and week out doesn’t do my heart well.

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Unplugging the Microwave of Success

Have you heard the soundtrack to the hit broadway musical “Hamilton?” If you’ve seen the actual musical, just keep that to yourself — intentionally causing envy is tantamount to envy, itself.

The music is quite spectacular. And historically insightful, too. My kids are way more knowledgeable about the Founding Fathers due to our time in the car together. It makes me question everything about my school upbringing! Hip hop trumps note-taking all day long.

Production aside, Alexander Hamilton was quite an amazing guy. He accomplished much, including establishing one of the first banks in America, the Bank of New York. Here’s what made me take a step back while jamming along to the soundtrack — it took Hamilton seven years to establish the bank’s charter. I know, the local community bank went up in a months time, and that seemed like forever in today’s world, but think about that for a moment. Seven years. That’s a long time to focus on something. Anything.

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Do Labels Limit Potential?

Do you have a label maker in your workplace? Or maybe at home like I do? A small little printer with only one purpose in life: labels. My wife really loves label maker, which explains our pantry. She’s labeled every bin, which felt like overkill until I needed to distinguish between powdered sugar and all-purpose flour. A light dusting of flour on your pancakes isn’t a good as you probably imagine!

My wife isn’t alone in her love of labeling. People by nature love to label things. You have probably labeled something today — or many somethings. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. And that could be a good thing. Labels are helpful. And labels give context. A label describes what we know and what we can expect. Powdered sugar or flour. Black beans or green.

Here’s where labeling goes downhill. Unfortunately, as a leader, our propensity to label things often transfers to labeling people. We do it for the same reason as the bins in my pantry — labeling people gives us context. It helps us understand who people are and what we can expect. We label people through personality test, which is often helpful, as these types of tests give us context on how to best lead individuals individually. We label people’s roles though job descriptions and titles. Again, helpful for us and the person on the other end of the role. If we could stop the labeling there, maybe all would be fine. But we don’t. In fact, it’s as if we can’t. We love context too much to stop with personality characteristics and job descriptions.

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Giving Yourself Some Growing Grace

If you are leading in any way, no doubt you are faced with potential personal growth opportunities. These opportunities come in various forms. Some are easy to understand while others are more complex. Some learnings are easier to implement than others. Unfortunately, the most difficult aspect of personal growth isn’t identifying the growth opportunity, but rather dealing with our implementation attempts and setbacks.

Let me explain with a personal example:

I recently was able to take some time away from leading at Woodstock City Church. I spent the bulk of my time processing some interpersonal stuff that was directly impacting my ability to lead well in the long term. One key learning for me (among so many) was how easily I can allow what I do as a leader to define who I am as a person. When what I do is doing well, I’m doing well. When what I’m doing is struggling, I find myself personally struggling. When I fail, I begin to believe I am a failure. It’s identity 101, but none of us are immune to forgetting this Christian life principle. Especially in leadership, where progress and doing is the bulk of the work.

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The Power of Proximity

Have you ever been passed over simply because you were not around when opportunity came?

Don’t feel bad—it’s the power of proximity, and it’s a normal function of organizational life. Those closest to the point leader often find themselves with the most opportunities. Not necessarily because they are the most talented, or the most capable, or even the best fit, but because they are there.

I’ll go ahead and say it for you: “That doesn’t seem fair.” It’s not, but neither is life, which doesn’t make anyone feel better, but nevertheless is still true.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to proximity, but for a driven, young leader, the advantages typically far outweigh the disadvantages. Young leaders want new challenges and opportunities. They want to learn through experience and be coached on their performance. They want to better understand and contribute to the bigger picture, and there is no picture bigger than that carried by the point leader. Being near him or her matters.

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Neutralizing Your Fear to Lead Change

What’s keeping you from leading change?

There are some things that are unchangeable—things outside of our control. But what about the stuff that we do control? What about the stuff that we can change. The places where we have autonomy or authority.

  • You’re a business leader, and your primary product is slipping in market share. If something doesn’t change soon, you’ll be out of business. You know it. Your staff knows it. Your competition knows it.
  • You’re a team leader, and your staff is growing complacent. Moral is low, people are beginning to leave, and you know something must change internally for the team to be a team once again. You’re the leader. You have the power to make a change.
  • You’re a pastor or church leader. Things have grown stagnant in the congregation. People are still attending, but they aren’t engaging like before. They arrive late and leave early. New families are not showing up. You know something must change if you are going to reach the community again. You’re the leader. You know what’s wrong, and you believe you can fix it. You can make the shift. You can implement the change.

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Telling Yourself “No For Now”

When was the last time you listened to a leadership podcast, read a blog, or attended a conference and heard a great leader offer great advice, but walked away thinking it wasn’t for you?

Several years ago I listened as my boss, Andy Stanley, taught a leadership lesson on saying “No for now.” The basis of his teaching was saying “No for now” doesn’t mean “No forever.” According to Andy, as a leader, you should be willing to say “No for now.” He gave examples from his past.

  • When he had young children and was asked to speak at other churches or conferences, he declined. “No for now.”
  • When he was launching North Point Community Church, he didn’t accept any offers to travel. “No for now.”
  • He decided that being home at 4:00pm was best for his wife and family, so for a season, he would not meet with anyone in the late afternoon or evening. “No for now.”

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How Can We Lead From Here to a Preferred There?

Maybe it’s just me, but few things frustrate me more than knowing what could be against what is; yet not making progress.

But I’m guessing that’s not just me – it’s probably every leader reading this post. Most leaders I know have some version of a preferred future in mind with a desire to lead people there over time. In some ways that’s why we are leaders! Leadership is about influence, and in most cases, influence towards something specific. A vision. A destination… A preferred future.

And again, for me, the more untapped the potential, the more frustrated I get when the progress is slow or nonexistent.

Here’s my current example: As a pastor in a large church, one of our greatest untapped potentials is in generosity. In conservative estimations, if every family who attends our church systematically gave ONLY 5% of their household income to the church (that’s half of what we would consider a tithe), our annual revenue stream would increase 400%. And that’s VERY conservative. It could increase 6, 7 or maybe 10 times! In my case, that is millions of dollars – with a capital “M.” And we would not need to spend more money inside our church – we would be in a position to do unprecedented good outside our church!  Continue reading…

5 Ways You Can Better Question Leadership Decisions

Have you ever questioned a decision made by leadership? Maybe EVERY decision made by leadership?

My guess is everyone’s answer is “yes” to the first question! For those of you who answered “yes” to both, we’ll write another post for you soon!

Everybody at some point questions those in leadership. In some cases the questions are warranted. But in every case there is a danger in not knowing what we don’t know. Let me explain by pointing to a recent news article published in the NY Times, and then we will circle back and try to learn something together.

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6 Ways to Lead a Church When You Don’t Get To Preach

How do you publicly lead a church when you’re a Campus Pastor, not the Senior Pastor?

That’s an ever increasing question. With the rise of multi-site churches, more Campus Pastors are added to leadership circles every day. But leading as a Campus Pastor presents unique challenges. I want to address one of these challenges in this post:

How do you cast vision for your church when you do not preach weekly?

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