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5 Church Leadership Lessons I Learned from Moses’ Father-in-Law

I know that’s not a very intriguing or sexy title…no clickbait there. However, to this day, the best leadership book I’ve ever read is the Bible (and like you, I’ve read a lot of leadership books). One of the most interesting leadership interactions I’ve ever read about is out of Exodus chapter 18.

Moses is actually pretty early in his personal leadership development and along comes Exodus chapter 18, which turns out to be a crucible moment for Moses. It’s one of those moments where Moses’ leadership grows exponentially. Exponential leadership growth, or crucible moments, are usually a result of pain in our lives, and in Exodus 18 Moses is experiencing all kinds of leadership pain. In fact, it was so painful it affected his family so badly that his father-in-law had to step in. Not a great moment for a son-in-law.

Usually we are the lid to our own leadership

“The next day Moses sat to judge the people and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” Exodus 18:13

Moses was his own worst enemy, and the worst part is he didn’t even see it. He had led himself into a corner. Every decision had to go through him. He chose control over growth. He could control everything if it came through him, but by doing so he stunted his own personal leadership growth and prevented himself from being what the Israelites needed him to be. At first, for a new young leader that may make you feel important and valuable. But like Moses you’ll quickly learn that when you’re running from sunup to sundown, that kind of approach can lead to some very unhealthy behaviors in your life and actually hurt the Church.

We all have blind spots

“When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people?’” Exodus 18:14a

Moses had a blind spot. He was doing something that wasn’t good for himself and it wasn’t good for the people he was supposed to be leading. And by the way, it also wasn’t good for his family…that’s probably why his father-in-law butted in. We all need people to butt-in from time to time and hold up a mirror to help us see things that we just can’t see on our own. When people hold up a mirror to your leadership is your first inclination to listen and ponder or fight and offer excuses?

You don’t have to lead alone

“’Why do you sit alone, and all of the people stand around you from morning till evening?’” Exodus 18:14b

Leadership by its very nature is exclusive. After all, how many CEO’s of Amazon are there? How many CEO’s of Apple are there? I think you get my point. However, just because leadership is exclusive doesn’t mean it needs to be lonely. Those are two different things. While it’s true that the leader has decision making power and carries weight that others in the organization don’t, it doesn’t mean they need to do that in isolation. It’s never good to sit alone in leadership like Moses was. Bad things happen when leaders become lonely.

You’re not the only one who can do it

“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.’” Exodus 18:17

When church leaders buy into the lie that says, “no one can do it as good as me,” all kinds of bad things happen. You suffer, everyone around you suffers, and the mission of Jesus suffers, You suffer because you carry more than you are called and designed to carry. People around you suffer because they carry less than they are called and designed to carry. The mission of Jesus suffers because less people are involved in the mission and as a result the reach of the Gospel is diminished. Are you carrying out your calling, or have you picked up things that it’s time to let go of?

The help you need is probably right under your nose

“So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” Exodus 18:24-25

Often, we can’t see the solutions God is providing us because we’re more focused on being a victim and find a solution. Moses had become a bit self-absorbed and had a bit of a “woe-is-me” attitude. As soon as Moses started looking around to see what kind of solution and resources God had provided him and got his eyes off of himself things started working for Israel and for Moses. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and playing the part of a martyr, take a different approach and find a solution.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2019 #7: “How to Build a Problem Solving Culture at your Church”

I mentioned when I began this countdown that team culture came up. I’ve fielded a lot of questions from church leaders on this topic and this post resonated with those conversations.

The best ideas don’t always come from where you think they come from.

In the Church we tend to hire professional pastors who are supposed have all of the answers. After all pastors go to seminary to learn theology and all kinds of good stuff about the Bible and how to teach it. The very nature of the structure lends itself to people thinking pastors have the answers. But guess what? We don’t. We may have some of the answers and even a few good ideas from time to time, but we don’t have all of the answers and we certainly don’t have the best ideas in the room.

The best ideas typically come from people who are closest to the problem.

So, for all of you who want to lead in a big church here’s one of the unfortunate implications of that statement. The larger the church is that you serve at and the more removed you are from day to day interaction with volunteers and people who attend your church, the more likely it is you have no idea what the best ideas are, in fact you probably don’t even know what the biggest problems are.

But your culture needs to allow ideas to flow up, input to be given and problems to be solved. Many churches never come to close to identifying or solving their biggest problems because their culture won’t allow it.

Here’s a few ideas about how you can start changing that.

1. Ask Good Questions

Asking instead of telling can quickly shift the culture of a team. Telling people what to do actually keeps them from learning to problem solve and think for themselves. Even if you have a strong opinion and you think your idea is the right idea, exercise restraint and start asking questions like, “What do you think we should do?,” “What do you think is best for our church?,” and “Is what we’re doing actually working?”

2. Push Decisions Down

If low level decisions consistently get escalated to high levels, then you’ve got a culture that is preventing you from solving problems. People are afraid to do the wrong thing, so they are escalating everything for input. Start to refuse to make decisions on things that you know others should be deciding on (otherwise you’ll train everyone to come to you for every decision). Do you have to make this decision?

3. Do Something About It

If you ask for input and then don’t actually do anything about it, you are training people not to answer you. If all you ever do is listen to problems, identify problems or talk about problems, the biggest problem you may have is a lack of courage to act.

4. Allow People to Make Mistakes

Each of my four kids can walk. I know that may not impress many of you, but there was a time when they were younger they could only crawl. When they got old enough and strong enough they would pull themselves up using a piece of furniture and attempt to take a step or two. They always failed. Every single one of them failed. There were some bumps and bruises and painful crash landings. But they’d get back up and try again. My wife and I would sit a few feed away from them and literally cheer them on. We’d tell them how proud of them we were for taking one lousy little step. You get where this is going. If you want to build a problem-solving culture in your church, you’ve got to cheer on little steps, little failures, and all of the moments they get back up and try again. Demeaning them won’t help them walk.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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3 Roles an Executive Pastor Can’t Delegate | Webinar Replay

You wear a lot of hats. You want to help the church be effective, and you make everything come together. Just make sure you don’t delegate these 3 roles.

If you’re an Executive Pastor, you want to win in your role and help the church be effective.

But you’re not immune to the ministry whirlwind. There are so many things that seem to require your attention.

We’ve heard it again and again from executive pastors: “I’m the one who’s supposed to make vision actionable, but I get pulled in so many directions!”

Ever felt that way? You’re not alone.

What are the things ONLY you can do?

This webinar helps you get a framework for evaluating the work that lands on your desk and deciding what gets delegated and what does not.

You’ll walk away with:

  • Greater clarity on the wins for your role
  • How to build a foundation for a more effective working relationship with your lead pastor
  • Practical ways to decide what gets delegated and what does not

When your role isn’t clear (and protected), the results are pretty predictable… vision stalls out, staff teams can get dysfunctional, and tension can develop in your relationship with your lead pastor. It’s frustrating to feel stuck—knowing you have the gifts to lead but lacking a way to clear the clutter.

Watch the webinar replay here:


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why the Grass isn’t Greener at that other Church

If you haven’t noticed, church staffing has become a competitive market in recent years. So much so that a quick Google search of “Church Staff Search Firms” will provide you with a list of companies whose entire purpose is to help staff local churches, and whom didn’t exist 20 years ago. By the way, some of these search firms are very good at their jobs.

It’s easier than ever for church staff members to change churches…and they are. Unfortunately, staff longevity is becoming a rare thing in churches. I frequently have conversations with churches that are looking to hire a new team member or a team member who is looking to make a move to a new church.

And while moving to a new church may be what God wants you to do, it’s important to remember that the grass isn’t always greener at that new church.

Your Expectations may not be Reasonable

Often times I hear sad stories from church staff members about how the church or their Pastor hasn’t met their expectations. Expectations that go unmet can create all kinds of hurt and disillusionment. However, your expectations may not be reasonable. It’s not your pastor’s job to disciple you, working at a church isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, and I know you got into ministry to be a part of life-change and people meeting Jesus but this is your job, you don’t get to get paid to do a hobby (and you shouldn’t get paid to have coffee with people all day long). So, temper your expectations (by the way, the secret to happiness in life is low expectations).

The Problem isn’t “out there”

Typically, when I hear church staff members talk about leaving their church the conversation focuses on a problem or series of problems at the church they’re currently serving in. The first bit of input I consistently find myself providing is this: “If God has given you the insight through His Spirt to see something in the church you serve at that needs to change, instead of criticizing it why don’t you try and help it be what you see God wants it to be?” Maybe the problem isn’t with the church, maybe the problem is you’re not being solution oriented and you’re focusing on what’s wrong instead of trying to help it get better.

Planting a New Church may not Fix it

When things get tough, many young leaders are opting to leave and plant a new church. And while I’m all for planting new churches to reach new people, too often these new churches are planted for all the wrong reasons by all the wrong people.

Sometimes you have to Create the kind of place you want to be

I firmly believe, that if at all possible (it isn’t always), the best option for you and the best option for your church is for you to stay and figure it out. You will grow through the process and the church will experience the benefit and fruit of you staying and figuring it out. Sometimes it’s worth staying and creating the kind of place you want to be.

Work at a church? Trying to figure out if it’s time for you to leave your church? Check out this post about “Why Church Staff Change Churches.”


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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4 Big Reasons Why Church Teams Win or Lose

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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