shaping your leadership culture

Recently, our staff had a conversation about what it might look like if we were more aware, accepting, and welcoming of our visitors. I captured the ideas, refined them a little, and then got feedback. We wanted to make an impact beyond the staff, so after a discussion with our key leaders, we challenged everyone–staff and key leaders– to walk through the same material with the people they are leading.

Our goal was to teach our leaders and equip them to teach others.

It takes a lot to shape a culture, this is simply one small way of many. If you’re interested, you can find the document here: loving outsiders. Lemme know in the comments if you end up adapting it to your ministry, and how you made it better!

Leaders Worth Following

Follow a leader who:

  • Authentically loves Jesus, not simply appearing to follow him
  • Knows God’s calling on their life
  • Listens to their convictions, instead of their critics
  • Acts with confidence, not bravado
  • Cares about people, rather than controlling them
  • Has a plan to move forward, rather than just keeping people busy
  • Earns trust, rather than expecting it
  • Demonstrates integrity, rather than quick and/or easy solutions
  • Listens to and learns from others
  • Accepts responsibility, rather than making excuses
  • Develops and grows others
  • Open and honest about expectations and evaluations
  • Sees faithfulness as more important than effectiveness
  • Demonstrates an understanding of humility by being a servant
  • Loves inspiration–hearing from God–more than influence over others.

This list can’t be exhaustive! What would you add to it?

Are you a leader worth following? Why?

HELP! I can’t do it all!

In my last post (which you can find here), I examined what I think are the fundamental elements to ministry. Ministry starts with a real need that is seen by someone who is passionate enough to meet that need.

Eventually, every leader comes to a point in their ministry where he or she is seeing more need than can be met. Once we learn to open our eyes to the needs of others, it’s impossible to something for everyone with a need.

There is only one messiah…and you and I aren’t him.

I think there are at least two reasons for why leaders see more need than they can meet. First, it drives us humility. We can’t do it all, but God can. He cares for the broken world far more than we do. Second, it drives us to equip others to serve. We ought to be looking for others along the way and help them see where they might be serving. In the beginning of our faith, our immaturity keeps us from seeing needs in others–we need others to teach us to care.

Leaders often see more need than they can meet so that we remain humble before God and equipping others to meet those needs.

ministry is more than motion

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” Luke 10:33

We can learn a lot about ministry–loving our neighbors–from the parable of the good Samaritan. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Ministry starts with real needs. In this case, the poor man was beaten and left on the side of the road. He needed rest, food, and shelter, etc. This is a broken word and the needs are nearly infinite. Someone may need a cup of water, a visit, a word of encouragement, new clothes, a job, a good listener…you get the picture. At times, we can become enamored with a fabulous idea to help someone but everything falls flat because we’re going after a need that doesn’t actually exist.

The need must be seen by a person with enough passion to act. Many of us are blind to the needs of others, especially when we are young in the faith or caught in habitual, unconfessed sin. In this parable, the traveling Samaritan saw the hurt person on the side of the road, and did something about it. Perception and passion are essential. It is not enough to be observant, but lacking in passion. The religious leaders saw the need, but did nothing!

Ministry is meeting needs in love. The needs are real, not invented. The needs are met, not ignored. Love is action, not a comfortably held opinion.

Ministry can get complex: plans and problems will drain away simplicity. In many cases, it is necessary to have a detailed and careful plan. Often we face difficult problems that redefine the situation–new context means new approaches.

However, the complexity must not choke out the essentials. When we loose sight of the fundamentals, we run the risk of getting trapped in unbreakable and ineffective traditions.

If we’re failing to act, we must cultivate our passion.

If we’re failing to help, we must discern the needs before we evaluate our methods.

If we’re not meeting a need in love, then what we think is ministry is actually recreation.

 

One final thought. As leaders, we often see more needs than we can meet. We don’t have enough time or resources to do everything. Why would God be so cruel to open our eyes to more pain than we can help? I’ll post about that after the weekend. Until then, how do you resolve that tension?

 

 

Struggling Spiritually as a Leader

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  (Matthew 11:2-3)

 

Have you ever wondered, in the quiet recesses of your heart, “As a leader, is it ok for me to struggle spiritually?”

YES, it’s okay! It’s natural. It’s normal. Every believer with years of spiritual maturity has struggled. Leaders struggle too.

Although the struggle looks a little different for everyone, there seem to be some common thoughts:

  • This dry season has become the new normal for me
  • I feel like I’m faking it
  • I have to look like I have it all together
  • I can see my integrity slipping in some small ways

John the Baptist had serious struggles in the form of doubt. How could John have doubts!? He preached about the coming for Jesus for years, he even baptized Jesus and saw heaven open up!

After responding to his doubts, Jesus said he was the greatest person who ever lived. Amazing. Refreshing.

It’s ok to struggle. Doubts and temptations are constant companions in this world. It’s not a question of avoiding spiritual struggles, the challenge is to be faithful through them.

John had a question and he went after his answer (he sent people to Jesus since he was in prison). Every struggle positions us uniquely to hear God speak. I wish it weren’t so, but it seems like some of the most personal and important learnings come from struggle.

At times, we have wandered off the path of faithful obedience, and the struggle is a chance to repent and go back to doing the things God has for us.

As leaders, and more importantly, beloved children of God, the worse thing we can do is deny that the struggle exists. It’s easy to learn how to pretend, to become like the white washed tomb that looks nice on the outside but the inside is full of dead bones.

Denial has an ugly sister, and her name is guilt. She is an empty hole that consumes all light and life. She is a burden we cannot carry yet we cannot lay it down except at the foot of the cross.

It’s ok to struggle spiritually. Let’s agree to not fake it and, if needed, to repent.

 

BIBLE STUDY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Are you struggling with your spiritual life right now? How long has it been going on? What impact has it made in your life? What seems to be the core issue or issues?

What do you think God may be saying to you? What scriptures come to mind and speak to you in this season? How will you allow God to grow you in this season?

It’s obvious that it’s not appropriate to share our problems with everyone we know. However, has “faking it” shown up in some of your relationships?

Who’s power made it happen?

The Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men.” (Judges 7:4)

Think about the last great accomplishment in your ministry.

How sure are you that it came from God’s power and not your own? Could you prove to yourself that you were used by God? When have you crossed the line from serving out of your Spirit given gifts into self-sufficiency?

Here’s what Gideon did:

  • He questioned God’s angel
  • He resisted God’s call by making excuses
  • He tested God and asked for a sign…several times
  • He worshiped with an offering
  • He acknowledged God’s presence
  • He build an altar to God
  • He obeyed God and demolished a pagan altar
  • He obeyed God and reduced his army, from 32 thousand to 10 thousand to 300
  • He listened when God assured him success
  • He won a battle without raising a single sword

By the way, I don’t think all of these are worth following!

Don’t Be The Best

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 25:25-28)

You should be your best. God created you with amazing skills and given you marvelous gifts.

You should be your best, but you don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to be the best person in the room.

When you are in a meeting, leading a small group, or teaching a message, which way does your attitude lean: towards being your best or the best? When you are honest with yourself, are you really looking to lord over people?

Maybe you are the best, the best at organizing or teaching or pulling off a particular event. If you are the best, have some humility so that you are serving others the way Jesus did.  Jesus was the best, in every room he stepped into. Jesus was better than everyone he ever encountered. However, in his magnificent humility, sinners still approached him, fools still argued with him, and the sick came for healing.

If you aren’t the best–if you don’t have all the answers–stop trying to fake it. The desire to be seen as the expert comes from a dark place. You can still lead if you give up the act, even though this may be very hard to accept. Other people will still accept you when you drop the act.

The difference is ego verses humility. While humility is difficult to choose, it’s clearly the example Jesus set for us to follow.

 

BIBLE STUDY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Do you find it difficult when others are in the limelight? Is it hard to not get the credit? in what situations do you crave to be seen as the expert?

What is a practical way you can give up some control and allow others more freedom? What are some subtle actions you take that contradict the calling to be a servant?

Do the people you are leading feel comfortable around you? How can you tell? What can you do to increase the freedom the feel?

Leading Leaders: how much structure do I give?

My encouragement: structure as little as possible

Some people need a detailed task list, other people need to hear your dream and they will fill in the details.

The discernment required here finds the balance between micromanager and invisible. Prayer and reflection about your people will give you an idea of what your leaders need. At times, it may be best to give them both and ask them which they prefer. Introduce structure with humility and respect–which, by the way, these don’t sacrifice your authority–and give the option to choose what they prefer.

For you controlling types, a few things. First: it’s ok that you are a control freak! It really is because that’s how God designed you. You have strengths that others lack. Second, My encouragement is that you don’t let your ability to control keep you from developing others. Third, perhaps giving them an option for less control isn’t a great option. In this case, ease up your control over time.