Tag Archive - bad

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You Get What You Tolerate

I talk to church leaders all the time who dream about how they wish their church were different. But I rarely talk to church leaders who are willing to take action and do something with all of that wishing. Just like in parenting, any relationship or social construct, in church leadership you get what you tolerate. If you tolerate bad behavior, you’re going to get bad behavior.

Inaction is Equivalent to Action

By doing nothing you’re actually doing something. Everything person, church or organization is led by intent or neglect to be where it is and where it’s going.

Hope is not a Strategy

Hope is not a strategy. It doesn’t matter what you hope will work or what you wish would work. It only matters what actually will work. And nothing works until you do.

Take Personal Ownership

If you don’t like the way things are in your church today and you’ve been a part of the leadership team for more than 3 years (less than that and you can blame the prior administration) than most likely it’s because you’ve allowed it to be what it is. You’ve tolerated bad or sloppy behavior and it’s become institutionalized in the culture of the church. Take personal ownership of it, admit it, apologize to your team for it, and then stop tolerating it.


Posted in Leadership

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What’s Wrong With Big Churches? Part-2

Some time ago I asked a simple question to the readers here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real, “What’s wrong with big churches?” As you can imagine I received some emotionally charged answers. But as I sifted through the responses there were 10 key issues that kept coming up.

In Part-1 of this post I briefly described each of these common criticisms of large churches with no added personal commentary, which I promised to add later. In this post I offer a few of my own thoughts and brief response to each of these top 10 complaints I received about large churches. If you want to understand my comments in context then read part-1 of the post.

#1 “It’s Difficult to Connect with People”

I’ve seen a lot of small seemingly friendly churches where it’s difficult to “break in” and connect. There is a big difference between being a friendly church and a church where you have friends. The key is does the church have a strategy to help guests take the next step towards involvement and discipleship?

#2 “The Pastor doesn’t Know Me”

One of the reasons that the average church in America has less than 80 people in attendance is because that’s the amount of people that one pastor can typically take care of by themselves. Jethro gave his son-in-law Moses some great advice in Exodus 18:13-26. Stop trying to do all of the work of leading God’s people alone. They shouldn’t all be coming to you. It’s bad for you and it’s bad for them. Learn to delegate and empower other leaders to join you and share the burden of leadership (paraphrase).

#3 “It’s all about the Budget and the Buildings”

Generosity is one of the key indicators of spiritual maturity. A church that doesn’t consistently talk about and lead their people to be generous is going to have a difficult time funding the expansion of the Gospel.

#4 “The Staff are always Changing”

In a growing church there are always going to be new staff added as a part of the growth. There will also naturally be staff that fit during a particular season who simply don’t have the capacity to lead in the next season of ministry as the church grows and a different skill-set is needed.

#5 “They only care about Numbers not Discipleship”

Simply put growth and numbers matter. Every number has a name and every name has a story. It’s important for churches to count people because people count. I’d rather see more people in a church than less people in a church and I’d rather see more people in heaven, than less people in heaven.

#6 “They Build Consumers not Disciples”

Spiritual maturity probably isn’t what you think it is. It’s not an emotional experience, an intellectual exercise, or acquiring more knowledge. Jesus tells a parable about two houses that were built, one on a foundation of sand and the other on a stone foundation. In both cases the builders heard the Word of God, but only one of the builders put what he heard into action. Could it be that spiritual depth according to the Scriptures is simply putting God’s Word into action? It’s not what you know it’s what you do with what you know.

#7 “They’ve turned the Church into a Business”

You’re right, the Church isn’t a business; it’s the body and bride of Christ. But that doesn’t mean that great financial stewardship, planning and strategies, structure, good operational or human resource practices are unbiblical. Read the book of Proverbs. The church hasn’t ripped off the business world; the business world has ripped off the book of Proverbs. It’s time we take it back and lead more wisely.

#8 “The Sermons are a Mile Wide & an Inch Deep”

Effective communicators understand how to take complex ideas and make them simple to understand and applicable to everyday life. Jesus was a master at this, and He was actually winsome in his approach. The Pharisees didn’t think Jesus was very deep either. They just thought He knew how to attract a crowd. You can’t do much with a crowd of people if you don’t know how to attract a crowd

#9 “All they care about is the Weekend Show”

The number 1 reason that people come to church in America is that a friend invites them. And research shows that 7 out of 10 people who don’t attend church in America have never been invited to church. Wow. The easiest way to share Jesus with the people that matter most to you is to invite them to a church that shares the Gospel and gives people the opportunity to respond and say yes to following Jesus.

#10 “They’re really Lousy at Communication”

I got nothing here…yes, churches are notorious for being lousy at communication. Not just large churches but all churches. Size just complicates and exasperates it. Check out this video interview I did with Tony Morgan to learn more about improving communication at your church.


Posted in Leadership

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Why Your Policies are Killing Your Leadership

I’ve written before that policies are anti-leadership statements. Most people think that due to my role as an Executive Pastor at a large church I would be the guy who embraces and loves policies. Not so much. I’m actually policy adverse. And I’m policy adverse because policies naturally undermine leadership growth.

1. Policies Abdicate Responsibility

It’s never your fault if you’re implementing what a policy tells you to do. It’s safe. It’s safe because the policy is to blame, not you. Leaders take responsibility they don’t abdicate responsibility. By the way leaders don’t play it safe either.

2. Policies Drain Courage

It takes no courage to implement a policy (unless it’s an unpopular or stupid policy). Learning to win as a leader by leading through difficult circumstances builds healthy confidence and courage as a leader. Implementing policies not only robs you of the opportunity to build healthy courage as a leader but it actually drains you of courage at the same time; because you train yourself to rely on policy instead of developing your leadership instinct.

3. Policies Teach your Staff not to Think

Telling people what to do actually makes them stupid. When team members are taught to look in a manual for a policy to direct them how to act instead of learning how to think and act, they miss the opportunity to grow. Difficult moments in leadership are the proving grounds for young leaders to learn how to lead. You don’t become a great leader from executing policies. You become a great leader by leading.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are moments when everyone in the organization needs to know what to do and a policy needs to be put in place. Policies can be useful when they reflect and build the culture you’re trying to build and get you closer to your vision. If your policies don’t help you get pass that test then why do you have them?


Posted in Leadership

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5 Articles from June that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

Thank you for making June an incredible month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great staying connected with you through social media and hearing that these articles have been helpful. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top 5 Posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

#1 “7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Church Leaders”

It’s much easier to identify poor leadership in others than it is in yourself. We have a tendency to judge our leadership based on our intentions and the leadership of other based on the results.

An old Russian Proverb says it this way, “The eye cannot see the eye.”

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to observe all kinds of different Church Leaders who are leading in different sizes and “flavors,” churches. No matter the size or the flavor of the church I’ve seen the following 7 habits come up over and over again. So in no particular order, here are 7 common bad habits I’ve seen in Church Leaders over the years:

#2 “10 Signs Your Church is Headed for Decline”

When I was young my Aunt purchased a brand new car. I didn’t have a car yet so even though it wasn’t red and it had 4 doors instead of 2 I thought it was really cool. And because she had a car and I didn’t she by default was cool too.

Everything was cool until she forgot to change the oil. Truth be told, she never changed the oil. From the day she drove the car off the lot to the day it died (which was much, much sooner than it should have), that car never experienced a single oil change. Routine maintenance wasn’t her strong suite. And most of us are just like her. We put off going to the doctor for our annual check-up, we postpone going to the dentist for our 6-month check up, and yes we put off routine maintenance on our automobiles.

We just keep going until it hurts enough that we are forced to stop and go in for a check up.

Unfortunately most church leadership teams operate the same way. They put off routine check ups and maintenance until it’s too late and decline starts to set in. What if there were early warning signs (flashing lights on the dashboard) that helped indicate that trouble was ahead? In my experience Coaching Church Leaders and Consulting with Churches across the country I’ve seen the following 10 indicators of an impending decline over and over again.

#3 “5 Common Hiring Mistakes that Churches Make”

Recruiting and hiring a new team member can be exciting! Hire the right person and the whole team benefits. When you invite the right person to join your team not only is there an infusion of new talent, but also new ideas, fresh eyes, and a new well of experiences to go to. One new hire can literally improve the performance of the entire team. On the other hand, hire the wrong person and the ministry at your church could be set back for years.

Churches are notorious for making well-intentioned bad hires. At most churches the hiring process usually goes wrong for one of the following 5 reasons.

#4 “Discovering the Leadership Culture at Your Church”

While many churches may have a list of Core Values that they’ve built, very few churches that I’ve come across have taken the time to do the hard work of defining and clearly articulating their Staff Values or Leadership Culture that they’re trying to build at their church.

Culture is tough to define. It’s the elusive, soft stuff in the organization that’s more on the art side than the science side of leadership. It takes hard work to articulate it. But it’s a must for any church that wants to actually be intentional about building a particular staff leadership culture. A clearly defined culture allows you to make decisions, hires, and take any number of other steps at a faster pace. After all as Peter Drucker famously said…

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Peter Drucker –

Interested in discovering the Staff Leadership Culture at your Church? Start here. Gather your Sr. Leadership Team together and spend some time wrestling with the following two questions and build some lists together.

#5 “Work Hard Give Your Best & Put Family First”

How do I balance family and ministry? It’s a conversation I’ve had over and over again as a church staff member. I’ve heard church staff express deep frustration and anxiety over this question. They want to give their best to their ministry calling and yet sometimes feel like they’re sacrificing their family to follow Jesus. But then again doesn’t following Jesus mean you take care of and lead your family well? When you’re on staff at a church it means working weekends and often times being gone multiple nights of the week at meetings when church members are available. Further, many church staff members feel like they’re on call 24/7 to meet the needs of church attenders. You can see how ministry staff members can quickly feel tension over the whole balancing work and family, especially young church staff members who are just starting out and trying to figure it out.

At Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) we’ve defined our leadership culture with 7 clear distinctives. If you’re interested in learning more about them you can follow this link. One of them states:

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Family, Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Church Leaders

It’s much easier to identify poor leadership in others than it is in yourself. We have a tendency to judge our leadership based on our intentions and the leadership of other based on the results.

An old Russian Proverb says it this way, “The eye cannot see the eye.”

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to observe all kinds of different Church Leaders who are leading in different sizes and “flavors,” churches. No matter the size or the flavor of the church I’ve seen the following 7 habits come up over and over again. So in no particular order, here are 7 common bad habits I’ve seen in Church Leaders over the years:

1. Crosstalk and Triangulation

I’ve seen far too many times where the dynamics of the church staff are such that staff talk about one another instead of to one another. Usually this is because it’s allowed and even modeled by the Lead Pastor. Biblically (Matthew 18) the scriptures would teach us that if you have an issue with your brother then you go to them, not someone about them. One path is a leadership path, the other is a political path.

2. Dictatorship

We have a saying at the Unstuck Team: “The Team Outperforms the Individual Every Time!” When the Lead Pastor takes a dictatorial approach to decision making and the direction of the church everyone loses. The young Staff lose out because no one delegates tasks that give them the opportunity to learn to lead, the Sr. Staff lose out because they’re not empowered to make decisions which will ultimately result in losing your best team members, and the whole church loses out because no Lead Pastor is as good alone as they are with a great team, no matter how much of a superstar they are.

3. Unclear Expectations

When expectations are unclear it always leads to frustration, disappointment, and let down. It’s true in our more important relationships and it’s true in leadership. Lead Pastors can set their teams up for success by drawing a clear target on the wall and agreeing to and writing down clear, attainable and measurable goals.

4. Micromanagement

Some Lead Pastors are so insecure that they’re incapable of trusting their teams. They feel as though they have to control every aspect of what’s going on in the church, no matter how small. This kind of leader ends up building a team that is incapable of thinking for themselves, which will become a huge barrier to the movement of the Gospel! The first step in combating micromanagement is delegation and the next is empowerment.

5. Hiring Friends

I’ve seen teams go south because a Lead Pastor hires friends instead of the best-qualified candidate for the role. When the vision is trumped by the convenience of friendship it begins to erode trust on the team and trust is the fuel that leadership runs on.

6. Lack of Moral Authority

Nothing is more demoralizing for a staff team than when the Lead Pastor takes a, “Do as I say not do as I do” approach. A simple example of this is when a Pastor says it’s important for everyone to be in a small group but won’t be in a group themselves.

7. Unresolved Conflict

When the Lead Pastor doesn’t keep short accounts and instead allows unresolved conflict to exist it can lead to serious dysfunction on a team. Small gaps between Sr. Leaders at the top appear as huge chasms the further down you get from the Sr. Leadership Team.

What other habits of ineffective Church Leaders have you observed? What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!


Posted in Leadership, Staffing