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Top Posts of 2018 #7 “What Makes Emotionally Intelligent Church Leaders Different?”

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Emotional Intelligence is the latest leadership frontier that’s being explored. It’s not just a business world conversation, even in  church-world it makes a huge difference…and the best church leaders know that it’s actually rooted in the Bible.

The best church leaders don’t simply spend time learning new stuff about the bible, praying 24-7, discovering new management techniques or understanding organizational theory. They spend time on becoming better at the art of leading through relationships. After all relationships are both the glue and the grease that make work, happen.

And before you blow this post off and chalk it up to a bunch of business stuff being applied to church world…think again…this is all rooted in the Bible.

Emotionally Intelligent leaders are great at building effective interpersonal relationships with their team. Which is essentially the combination of being simultaneously self-aware and others focused.

But what are some things that these leaders actually do differently?

The Art of Timing

It’s a gift to say the right thing at the right time. The Bible puts it this way in Proverbs 15:23“Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!”

Emotionally intelligent leaders are disciplined with their words and craft their words intentionally. Not in a manipulative manner but in a way that serves people well. They don’t always say everything they see or feel for that matter. They are wise about giving people what they can handle or need at the time to help them move in the right direction.

Others Focused

Emotionally intelligent leaders are others focused. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul linked spiritual maturity to living an others-oriented life. Jesus said“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

While Paul put it this way in Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t focus on themselves they focus on the team, because they know that the team out performs the individual every time.

Self-Awareness

The best leaders I’ve ever been around are quick to take personal responsibility when things go wrong. Instead of looking outward and shifting blame they choose to shoulder the blame themselves. This takes a tremendous amount of confidence and self-awareness. And of course, the enemy of self-awareness is self-deception. Self-deception can be a dangerous thing. It can make you believe more or less about yourself than you should. You can even fool yourself into thinking more or less about others than you should. Emotionally intelligent leaders are sober minded, they know who they are, and they know who they’re not, and they do what’s best for the team. They are quick to take personal ownership when things go south and give out praise when things go well.

Jeremiah 17-9-10 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #8 “5 Ways Successful Church Leaders Think Different”

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This post came in at number 8…I’ve been around some successful church leaders. They really do think and act different. In fact this post outlines 5 ways I’ve observed successful church leaders thinking and acting differently than the average church leader.

Successful church leaders naturally think differently than the majority of church leaders. It’s one of the things that set them apart. The good news is you can learn to think just like them.

#1 They think about who they’re trying to Reach instead of who they’re trying to Keep

Another way to say this, is that they’re consumed with the mission that Jesus gave the church. To reach the nations. They make decisions based on who they are trying to reach not who they’re trying to keep.

#2 They think about Solutions instead of Problems

They don’t focus on problems and everything that could or does go wrong. Instead they focus on solutions and figuring things out. You could even say they’re optimistic in their thinking (either by nature or by choice).

#3 They’re Strategic Thinkers

They’re not just satisfied with having a clear picture of the future (vision), they want to act on it and build a roadmap to get there (strategy). They plan their work and work their plan. Which consequently their preparation allows them to be flexible when new opportunity arrives, or they meet unforeseen roadblocks.

#4 They Involve the Team

They’re not obsessed with coming up with the best idea. They’d rather be able to execute the best idea than get credit for it. They know the team out performs the individual, so they involve their team in great thinking.

#5 They Don’t Dwell on Failure

It’s not that they completely ignore failure, they don’t. They learn from failure. It’s just they don’t dwell on it. They pivot away from what didn’t work and move on quickly to the next thing.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #9 “Are You the Type of Person that can Work at a Fast Growing Church”

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So when I wrote this post I knew it wouldn’t make everyone happy, and I was right, it didn’t…but that’s not the point…I’m not trying to make everyone happy, I’m trying to shift people’s thinking about church leadership.

Not everyone gets to work at a fast-growing church. Yes, I know a list comes out every year that identifies America’s top 100 fastest growing churches and there’s a lot of staff members represented in those top 100 churches. But in context to the more than 400,000 churches in America that’s a pretty small percentage of church staff members.

In fact, most people in ministry will go their entire ministry career and not get the opportunity to be a part of a fast-growing church. That’s one reason, by the way, if you’re serving at a fast-growing church you should thank Jesus, soak it in, and enjoy it while you can. You’re sitting in a seat that few will ever get to.

There are all kinds of contributing factors to a church going through a period of fast growth, and at the top of the list is the Holy Spirit. In today’s booming market of church leadership and church growth strategy we would be making a mistake not to give credit where it is due. Jesus said He would be the one to build His Church.

That being said, I’ve had the unique blessing of serving at 3 very fast-growing churches. One went from 1,000 to more than 3,000, another went from 2,500 to 6,000 and the church I currently serve at I’ve had a front row seat to see it grow from 3,000 to 8,000.

While there are a lot of factors that contributed to those seasons of incredible growth one of the things I’ve observed in all of them is that the staff that work at fast-growing churches are different. Here’s what I mean…

1. Agile

They’re able to adapt to changing circumstances quickly and they don’t mind changing directions on projects. They become, “masters of midcourse corrections.” They love being on the team and they’re willing play different roles at different times based on what’s needed for the team to win. Ambiguity doesn’t bother them all that much because they trust and believe in the team and they know that together they’ll, “figure it out.”

2. Sober minded

They are self-aware enough to know what they’re good at and they play to their strengths and they play their part on the team. They’re also humble enough to do what’s best for the church and not for themselves or their career. They’re willing to change roles or have someone hired in over top of them so they don’t become the lid to growth.

3. Low Control

In a fast-growing church, you can’t have a staff member that is high control. There’s not time or bandwidth for micromanagement or perfectionism. In a fast-growing church, high control prevents you from generating new ideas and getting those ideas implemented and keeping up with the pace of growth because by the time the idea or new “product” is good enough to release you’ve missed the opportunity. Remember, the Gospel wasn’t meant to be controlled but unleashed.

4. Solution Oriented

Instead of focusing on problems and the past they’re focused on solutions and the future. Instead of talking to their supervisors about all of the reasons they can’t do something they’re bringing ideas of all the things they could do. They’re not as concerned about constraints as they are about what must be figured out. While there may be a lack of resources these team members are resourceful and they find a way.

5. Resilient

These church staff members have an unusually high pain tolerance. They’re typically leading through change and with change comes criticism. They know how to listen to the right people and ignore the rest. They’re laser focused on the vision of where they’re going and they’re willing to endure pain to get there, because it’s worth it to them.

6. Approach to Credit

These church staff members would rather the team win than worry about if they get any of the credit for it. They’re quick to accept responsibility and take credit when things go poorly and they’re equally quick to give away credit to others when they go well.

I’m sure there’s some characteristics that I’ve missed. If you’ve served in a fast-growing church what are some characteristics of the team members that made them different than other teams you’ve served on? Leave a comment!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #10 “How the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor Roles Work Together”

Business agreement - Senior and young male executives shaking hands at office

For the next couple of days I’m going to be counting down the top 10 posts from 2017 here on Helping Churches Make Vision Real. These are the posts that generated the most traffic, comments, and were the most shared on social media. The most popular topics this year had to do with emotionally intelligent leaders, church finances, church growth, indicators of decline, and becoming an outsider focused church.

This first post as we count down the top 10 has to do with the relationship between the Lead and Executive Pastor. I’m frequently asked how the relationship works, what a Lead Pastor should be looking for in a good XP. This post should help.

The relationship between the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor can make or break a church staff team and has profound impact upon the overall ministry of the church. Get this right and you’ll end up getting a lot right. Get it wrong, and well, it’s going to be tough sledding.

There are some basic no brainer things that make a great Lead and Executive Pastor partnership and of course trust is at the foundation of it.

  • You can’t allow triangulation; the Lead and Executive Pastor need to stay connected and on the same page. I’d recommend a weekly touch base meeting to help solve this.
  • You can’t have a “good cop / bad cop” situation. You don’t want the staff to love the Lead Pastor and fear the Executive Pastor. Executive Pastors remember that fear doesn’t make people want to follow you. On the other side of the coin, Lead Pastors can’t delegate all of the tough decisions and execution to the Executive, the church needs your leadership not just your direction.
  • A better analogy for a healthy partnership between a Lead and Executive Pastor is more like a mom and a dad leading a family together through mutual submission to one another. Leading in their area of brilliance and submitting in their areas of weakness.
  • The Executive Pastor needs to support the Lead Pastor publicly and when needed appropriately challenge them privately.

And if you’ve ever wondered what the basic lanes are that the Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor should be running in here are 4 things that each role can’t delegate away:

There are 4 Things the Lead Pastor can’t Delegate

  1. Leadership
  2. Teaching
  3. Vision
  4. Culture

There are 4 Things the Executive Pastor can’t Delegate

  1. Strategy
  2. Execution
  3. Leading the Sr. Leadership Team
  4. Daily Train, Develop & Coach the Culture

Posted in Leadership

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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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