A 5C Leadership Development Goal for 2017

More and more, we’ve understood the need to develop biblical, godly, wise leaders at ARBC. Like many churches, we found ourselves filling holes for our Nominating Team to fill.  And like many churches, we found ourselves voting for team heads by those who drew the short straw (“Well, if no one else wants to lead this team, I guess I will!”)

Scripture mandates that leaders in the church be ones who are character-driven, competent, connected, concentrating, and confidential (when appropriate) leaders serving in their area of gifting. I’m looking forward to developing and exploring what this looks like for our church in 2017.

How does this look for your church?

Here are some helpful books to get this process started:

Five Ways Churches and Pastors Help Each Other

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Two Sundays ago, my church surprised me at the end of the service with a basket of cards and a new ESV Clarion Reference Black Goatskin Bible* in recognition of my fifth anniversary at ARBC. I told our congregation that I am not comfortable being the center of attention (which was clearly evident), but prefer Christ and His Word to be center. Our associate pastor and deacons stood up with me, with our worship leader standing behind, and I was overwhelmed at how much I appreciated each of these men.

Pastors and churches must work together in unity in order for Kingdom work to go in a Christ-honoring way. God has given churches His unchanging Word to show us how His redeemed church should function. Our priorities must be His priorities. Our structures must be His structures. And the interplay between pastors and churches is critical to the life and future of any church.

Churches and pastors can certainly help each other in such significant ways where both can find hope and joy in serving Jesus together.

  1. Be honest about expectations and internal ‘cultures’ both have.

Churches and pastors over the centuries have had, at times, tenuous relationships. Both have expectations of the other through which each must work.  Senior/Lead Pastors now only last on average 3.6 years in a church. A myriad of reasons exist for why this happens, but I believe a major reason is the expectations each has on the other.

No one shows up at a church with a clean slate. We bring our experiences, our expectations, and our understandings of what a church should be. And pastors roll into a church that have already developed a particular culture and an understanding of what their pastor should be and do.

If pastors and churches do not recognize this, then both will be frustrated–and frustration is contagious.  This doesn’t just apply to pastors and churches, but everyone in the church.

Eric Geiger writes an excellent article on this topic.

2.   Both can help put the right people in the right lane.

Scott Morter II, our associate pastor, has been with us since he and his sweet family joined in 2012.  He came on-staff as a part-time youth pastor in 2014. Through all the ups and downs, he hung in there and has become not just someone on staff, but a friend. He truly loves ARBC and it’s clearly evident that he loves the people, not just those in his direct area of ministry and supervision. And thankfully, our church was not caught up in experience or a polished academic background (this was his first full-time position, and was still pursuing his MDiv). Still, our church brought him on and we’ve been all the better for it.

But you will also serve with people who shouldn’t be in their capacity. They may serve due to a respect and honor they desire from others. They may simply have missed a calling, and thus are miserable where they serve–all because they are outside of their lane and are miserable inside. No amount of training or counseling will move them forward until they find their lane. Until then, they will be miserable, their colleagues will be discouraged, and the church will stay confused.

Our deacons have provided prayer, counsel, and a servant’s heart in making sure our members are cared for.  In looking at spiritual gifts, pastoral qualifications, and general talents, churches need flexibility in getting people serving in their lane.

3.  Measure twice, cut once–but do so deliberately.

This must stand as part of the search process.  Another way to put it is, “Hire slow, fire fast.”  But I add the caveat–do so deliberately, off the Autobahn but not glacially. And this is not just for the good of the church, it’s for the good of the candidate as well. Churches cannot simply think about themselves, and neither should candidates think about themselves. Trajectories of churches and lives are set. Churches and candidates move too fast and don’t do their homework.  At least one or both should be willing to put on the brakes should the process go too quickly.

I heard of one church who brought on a pastor.  The church that recommended him gave glowing reports. When the pastor arrive and began to display some tendencies, communication was re-established with the previous church, only to find out that that pastor’s previous church did not share the problems that pastor brought.  How much heartache could have been saved?  As a result, the church was hurt, the pastor was hurt–and both are struggling to recover.

Churches have responsibilities to not just take care of pastors, but pastoral candidates. (Need I go into detail about how churches just drop communication during a search process when they’ve ‘moved on’ to more desirable candidates? But that’s for another day.)

(As a rebuttal, this Forbes magazine article believes this is the worst advice ever given.  You be the judge.  I believe the hiring process should be deliberate as should the ‘letting go’ process, giving people plenty of time to get their act together.)

4.  Be honest with your church regarding your joys and struggles.

Do you know why pastors are afraid to share struggles with their churches? Because they are afraid they will get fired.  But the apostle Paul shared them in 2 Corinthians 11-12. There have been at least two times I’ve shared struggles, once in 2009, and the other in 2014.  In 2009, my wife’s father died and my wife was diagnosed with lupus all within a matter of three weeks.  So on July 12, 2009, I told my church to be patient with me.

In February 2014, one of my best friends who was also a pastor, committed suicide. After preaching his funeral, it took me about 2-3 months to get my bearing (well, I say that, but maybe I’m still recovering and processing). There were decisions at church that needed to be made, and I just wasn’t in the place to make them because I was in pain and did not want to deal with any confrontation or pain, and just wished it away.  When a minister or pastor came struggling to me, I felt I had to give every ounce of my time to help that particular pastor ‘make it.’ In hindsight, it’s because I didn’t want any more calamities to happen with people in my circle of influence.

I had men in my church with whom I could share these issues, and also a church family that I could tell from the pulpit. They showed me how the one tragedy was affecting my judgment with other issues and decisions. But I had to tell someone. Pastors, you need people in your church with whom you can share.  Not gripe. Not complain. Not run the church down. Share. Churches, provide your pastors with men that can lift up your pastor when the inevitable struggles come.  I tried many times to help folks into the wee hours of the night, pastors and parishioners. Within a few months, I realized…

5.  Pastors can’t mend everything, but they can show the One who does.

I used to think I could help anything and anyone, as long as I loved them enough and made time for them to sort through issues. Pastors want to help. But pastors need to help themselves in realizing that they are not always the resident experts on everything everywhere.  Just because we go to school does not make us wise, just educated. Intellect does not equate to wisdom. We will not always get it right.

But we have the body of Christ with us. God gives churches everything they need to do everything He commands.  Churches should never believe pastors have all the answers to all the problems.  Each pastor has strengths and weakness, and should be in prayer about both!

Sam Rainer has an excellent article in this regard.

Our Four Areas of Personal Influence: Let’s Not Waste our Opportunities

Experts tell us that churches are healthy when they have 4% First Time Guests. We have  Four Areas of Influence: friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors in our four areas of influence who need Jesus. What can we do to develop a culture of Connecting and Inviting?  (Please note: this is specifically geared for my church, but hopefully will provide some fodder for other established churches making the Great Commandment and Great Commission a reality.)

The Leadership Honeymoon

Sam Rainer is the President of Rainer Research.  He wrote an excellent article about the ‘leadership honeymoon.’  This is so good.  This was posted in 2011 on his blog, and I came across it in reflecting on my fifth anniversary here at ARBC.  May it be of help to you.

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A new season of ministry brings no shortage of emotions: Excitement, stress, and a burning desire to accomplish something. Any major transition in life can put people on edge. Leaders, in particular, face the challenge of visibility during these times of transition. The people are learning the new leader’s verbiage, mannerisms, vision, and leadership style. The leader in turn is assessing organizational structure, relationship dynamics, and culture. In many organizations, leaders are more visible during this process than at any other time. This honeymoon stage is a time of high visibility for the leader, but it is also usually one during which people are most forgiving.

Those in church leadership positions are probably familiar with the honeymoon stage. For most, this time is one in which the people are excited to rally around and support a new leader. But it is also a time in which problems are simmering unseen, waiting to surface once the honeymoon fades.

During the honeymoon, leaders have a tendency to revert to default modes. Some leaders default to a more autocratic leadership style; others lean towards a style that is too gracious and laissez faire. One of my leadership defaults is assessment. During the honeymoon stage, I lean towards over-assessing and over-analyzing. While leaders should assess a new ministry during a transition, the pitfall is understanding exactly who and what to assess. In order to prevent cruising in default mode, there are some good practices for the honeymoon stage. I’ve listed a few below.

1. Learn to love the people. Some people in the church are easy to love. For others, it takes a little more time and spiritual commitment. But all the people need to see their leadership as loving. It does not matter what leadership role you play in an organization or ministry, followers like to know who is leading them. Learning the people takes a lot more time on the front end, but this process is invaluable in the long term. Big, transformational changes are much easier if you know people’s stories.

2. Celebrate little victories. In a time of transition, don’t jump into unnecessary major changes. Start your tenure by pointing out small victories. Vocalizing the successes of others not only builds people up, it reinforces expectations in a positive way.

3. Don’t be afraid to point out some of your idiosyncrasies. Everyone has foibles. And people pick up on them quickly. Show levity by admitting them to others in a tactful way. If you tend to ramble, then tell people, “I like to think out loud.” Communication will be easier earlier if leaders recognize their own quirks.

4. Maintain a long-term mindset. A long-term mindset is critical to lead any group of people. Organizations are complex organisms that cannot be digested all at once. A lack of a long-term commitment will squelch any potential for a leader to act in a transformational capacity.

5. Get to know the community
. You cannot lead a church without knowing the church. Additionally, you cannot lead a church to reach the community unless you know the community. One of the best windows of opportunity to talk with community leaders is during the honeymoon. And one way to make an immediate impact is to ask them about their biggest needs.

6. Enjoy it. Perhaps the quickest snare to trip is stress. If you maintain a long-term outlook, some of the early stresses (which always seem smaller in hindsight) are moderated. Therefore, enjoy loving the people. Enjoy the lack of complaints. Enjoy your community. And enjoy the privilege to serve the Creator of the universe.

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Read more quality leadership goodness, go to samrainer.com.