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5 Mistakes Experienced Church Leaders Make

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Experienced Church Leaders don’t mean to do it. Being complacent. Making mistakes. It “just happens” we tell ourselves. But does it have to happen? Not really.

After spending more than 22 years in full-time ministry this “experienced” Church Leader has committed every mistake on the list. We can chalk it up to complacency, over confidence, or a complete and utter lack of awareness. I know, you’re probably thinking…aren’t you a “successful” Church Leader and ministry consultant? Aren’t you supposed to stay on top of this stuff? Aren’t you supposed to lead without making mistakes? I wish it were that simple. I’m human. I make mistakes. Hopefully I can help you by sharing my blunders.

But what exactly is an experienced Church Leader? I’m sure you’ll answer that in your own way. If you’re reading this blog post, I’m betting the majority of you think you’re an experienced Church Leader. Or maybe you’re someone well on their way to becoming an experienced Church Leader who wants to avoid the blunders of us veterans. I commend your proactive efforts. So, let’s just agree that the term experienced Church Leader applies to all of us.

1. Moving too Fast

If you know me, you know that I love progress and results. In fact, I can be tempted to choose accomplishing the mission over people, even though people are the mission (weird huh). I’ve gotten myself into trouble a couple of times by moving too fast and leaving people in the dust or even worse mowing over people in the way. Both are bad. Yes, people are dying and going to hell, and someone has to do something about it…like right now…and that someone is you and me. But I’ve often underestimated what I can get done over the long haul and overestimated what I can get done this week.

2. Holding on too Long

Control is the enemy of growth, period. It’s the enemy of personal growth, professional growth, organizational growth as well as the growth of the Church and the spread of the Gospel. I’ve held onto things too long and told myself that others wouldn’t do it the way I wanted it done or as well as I could do it. Frankly I was wrong. The dirty little secret of Church Leadership that no one ever tells you is the higher you go in leadership the more you actually have to let go of and give away. If you don’t learn to let go, you will become the lid on the growth of the church.

3. Shifting Blame

Accepting personal responsibility is the first step that we take when it comes to real growth. This idea of “walking in the light” that the Bible talks about is the greatest personal and leadership challenge I believe we’ll ever face…and we’ll face it over and over and over again. I’ve been guilty of judging myself based on my intent and motivation and others by their performance. I’ve learned over time that blame goes up and praise goes down. Good leaders push praise down onto others and accept responsibility and blame for things that go wrong in the organization because ultimately, they’re in charge and have the power to change things.

4. Underestimating People

Have you ever underestimated someone? I have. More than once actually. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve underestimated what a volunteer can do as a volunteer. I mean there are fantastic, high capacity people in our churches that get paid a significant amount of money to do a job that they’re really good at and we cast the big vision to them of holding a door at church on the Guest Services Team. Ugh. We need to think differently. I’ve even underestimated young staff members. I forget how young I was once. I was 32 years old when I became an Executive Pastor at a church that was 2,500+…so yeah…start believing people and start giving them authority and space to lead. They might surprise you.

5. Trusting People Instead of their Performance

I’ve ignored people and refused to believe the truth about people. Even when they tell me who they are through their performance. I’ve chosen to trust and view them through relational trust that had been built up over time (friendship) instead of listening to them when their performance tells me over and over that they aren’t gifted to do a certain job, that their capacity isn’t as high as I thought, or that the job had outgrown them. Every time I’ve done that I’ve been guilty of hurting and holding the church back.

And that’s the list. It isn’t a list of ALL the mistakes experienced Church Leaders make, but they’re at the core of most of my leadership failures. Even though the list is short, there’s a lot of lessons that can be learned from my mistakes.


Posted in Leadership

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4 Big Reasons Why Church Teams Win or Lose

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Not all church staff teams are created equal. Not only are different people gifted differently, but they’re gifted with a different measure or capacity of each gift they have. Some teams are built skillfully and intentionally to reach a particular vision while others are a collection of talented people, others still end up being a gathering of players that may love Jesus a lot and are good at caring for His Church but may not be put together and assembled to win. And friends, make no mistake about it, we are in a high stakes game where there are winners and losers and eternity hangs in the balance. There’s too much at stake to take a passive care taker approach to “church.” There are a lot of reasons why teams win or lose, but there are four reasons that consistently stand out when it comes to church staff teams.

Ability and Gifting

Spiritual gifts are given by God through the Holy Spirit. Abilities and skills however can be taught. For example, the Bible describes leadership as a spiritual gift, however anyone can learn and develop leadership skills. However, no amount of training can make up for a lack of gifting. Great teams are built with people who are gifted by Jesus and then work to develop those gifts.

Strategy

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to accomplish the vision?” Great churches don’t just have big dreams and catchy vision phrases, they have a clear strategy to accomplish that vision. They know how they’re going to get it done…and they do.

Mentality

How does the church think? What is the mindset of the staff team? Are they aggressive problem solvers or do they default to taking care of and protecting what Jesus has entrusted to them. Do they leave the 99 to go after the 1?

Culture

Culture is that squishy stuff in a church that’s hard to get your hands around and define. It’s reflected in the language of the church, the way people who are a part of the church dress, the filter they use to make decisions and so on. Culture can be defined as the sum total of the attitude, values and behaviors of a church. Culture trumps intention, ideas or plans because it becomes the gravitational pull of the church.

Average teams excel in 1-2 areas.
Great teams excel in 2-3 areas.
Championship teams excel in 3-4 areas.

What kind of team are you building? What kind of team are you on?


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Are you more concerned about your Bible Study or your Neighbor?

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I’ve mentioned before that at Sun Valley (the church I have the privilege of serving at) we routinely gather the staff from all of our campuses together for a time of worship, celebration, communication, training…and of course a good meal. Recently we had the opportunity to spend some time with Dale Peterson who serves as the Executive Director of the Eagle Brook Association. Here are some of my notes from the conversation.

  • The demand for people to know Christ is greater than our current capacity…so what are we going to do?
  • Acts 2:
    • The first church was a megachurch
    • They grew numerically daily
    • Will you be a church where people follow Jesus and a church that I can actually invite my friends to
      • People don’t invite people to things that are average
      • You can’t hire average people because average people get average results
    • Spend time with God
      • If you know God’s heart you’ll make decisions based on God’s heart for people
    • Connect in Community
    • Serve Others out of our giftedness
    • Life Generously
  • BUT what the church wants:
    • Bible study and that’s not bad, unless it stops there
    • Fellowship with people that look and act like us
    • Help out (out of guilt)
    • Give 2.5% of their income to make sure their favorite ministry programs happen and the pastor gets a paycheck so we can keep the doors open
    • 80% of churches in America are plateaued or declining and see 1 conversion a year
    • 3,500 churches in America die every year…last year was the first year church planters kept up with the death rate so it was a zero sum game
    • And there are more people on earth than ever before…the harvest is greater than it’s ever been
    • Passion alone is not enough to motivate the church to go and reach people for Jesus
    • Most Christians are more worried about their bible study than their neighbor
    • Most Christians are sitting around praying and waiting for God to do something at their church…and He did 2,000 years ago…stop praying and do something
    • Most people in ministry are relegated to zookeepers…they feed the church and clean up after it…but the church has nothing to offer outsiders
    • People drive by the church and never think the church has anything to offer them
    • Vision statements don’t change the church
    • Churches that get it done build the right kind of culture
  • Building a vision culture
    • Beliefs: foundational beliefs, what we’re wiling to die for…just a couple (let’s not be willing to die for everything) there’s things we’re willing to die for, there’s things we’ll defend, and there’s things we’ll discuss
    • Values: (beliefs and values answer the question of who are we) – these are the desired behaviors that we’d like the whole church to act like…then we create ministry programs that produce the behaviors that we value most
    • Purpose: Why…Reunited in relationship with the Father (lost people are what Jesus cares about) Matt. 22
    • Mission: What we do…Matt. 28 (reach)…the front door into the church
    • Strategy: How we do it here (is this still working?…and how do you know?)
    • Goals: tell you where you’re going and when you’ll get there
  • How can 3,500 churches die every year while doing their bible studies when there are 7billion people on the planet

Posted in Leadership

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The Principles & Practices That Can Help You Lead an Unstuck Church

Last spring, we released our first ever online course. Ultimately, we felt like pastors were facing ministry challenges they weren’t prepared to address. So, we wanted to create a convenient resource to equip you to win.

We’ve loved getting to serve the community of leaders taking this course together, and we’re excited to announce that Fall 2018 enrollment for the Leading an Unstuck Church Course is now open!

We want to invite you to be a part of this experience.

Addressing 12 core issues where churches get most often get stuck, the Leading An Unstuck Church Course walks you through how to staff for growth, how to develop more leaders, how to establish healthier finances, how to enhance your weekend services and eight more essential lessons to help you lead an unstuck church.

This course will help you take your next steps as a leader by removing barriers to growth and giving you confidence to tackle these challenges as your face them.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what you’ll get with the course:

  • Access to Tony Morgan and our consulting team to coach you and answer your questions as you work through each lesson
  • 12 practical online lessons and training videos  to help you take your next steps
  • Discussion guides to lead conversations with your team
  • Specific next step action items for you to put what you learn into practice
  • Access to a private Facebook group with live Q&A events hosted by Tony

Check out the details and the FAQ’s for info on how to enroll.

Whether you lead a large church, a small church or somewhere in between, this course will equip you with biblical wisdom and practical know-how to lead your church towards sustained health.

Join our community of leaders to help navigate this journey.


Posted in Leadership

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8 Characteristics of a Great Campus Pastor

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I wrote my first article about multisite churches eight years ago, it was entitled, “Why 20 Churches Went, Didn’t Go, and Still Might Go Multisite.” The article was based on a conversation with a group of Executive Pastors from large churches across America that I had been asked to facilitate. Since that time, I’ve written over 40 articles about multisite churches and I’ve learned a few things along the way from leading in a multisite church and making mistakes, finding success, as well as learning from other great multisite churches.

There’s a lot that goes into building a successful approach to multisite. However, in my experience there’s one thing that stands out above all the conversations and arguments that take place over the next location, financial and staffing strategies, live verses video teaching, branding, culture, decision rights, and what ministries you should replicate at each new location. The Campus Pastor. That’s because people make decisions and replicate culture. That’s something structures, policies or even systems can never do. Policies, structures and systems may institutionalize or support your culture, but people build and replicate it. Get the right people and the right people will lead you to the right solutions.

So with that in mind, here are eight characteristics that you need to be looking for in your next Campus Pastor.

#1 Culture: They fit your organizational “DNA.” They embody and champion the mission, vision and values of your team.

#2 Communication: Depending on your teaching model, they don’t necessarily need to be able to teach from the stage, but they do need to be a good communicator. They need to be able to speak with your church’s “voice” and have the capacity to inspire people and motivate movement.

#3 Relationships: They’ve got to have great relational skills. This may sound shallow, but people need to like them. If they don’t like them then they won’t like your church. This means they have to have a pretty high E.Q. and be good with people.

#4 Leadership: To be a Campus Pastor they not only have to be a gifted leader, but they need to have a proven leadership track record of building and leading teams. They need to be able to show how they’ve led through others by not only delegating tasks but empowering decision making.

#5 Driven: Being a Campus Pastor isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. If you’ve ever wanted to be a Campus Pastor, be careful what you wish for, because you might get it. Campus Pastors need to be mentally tough and have a certain amount of grit to lead through the tensions of moving people from where they are to where they need to be. They need to be able to execute and deliver, not just pontificate about ideas.

#6 Start Date: They’ve got to be able to join your team at least 6 to 12 months prior to the launch of the new location. It’s going to take that long for them to be a part of building the core team, staff team and deal with launch details. I’d encourage you to give them an even longer onramp if they’re being hired in from the outside and need to learn and embrace your culture.

#7 Community: They’ve got to be willing to live in and/or engage the community where the new campus is going to be.

#8 Second-Chair: Great Campus Pastors are wired to serve as a second-chair leader. They don’t need to be the vision caster but they need to believe in and be a vision carrier.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing
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