Tag Archive - control

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5 Mistakes Experienced Church Leaders Make

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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5 Reasons Churches don’t Grow

It’s impossible for your church to grow and everything stay the same. I know it would be nice if everything could stay the same as the church grows, but it can’t. And the secret underlying truth is as your church grows you will lose some things along the way. But that’s kind of the point. You simply can’t move from here (current reality) to there (preferred future) and everything stay the way it is. If it did, you’d never get “there,” you’d just stay where you are.

While there are a lot of reasons why churches stall, sputter, and stop growing but there are a few big reasons that lurk beneath the surface of the worship services, ministries and organizational structure of the church and live within the heart of the leader.

#1 Control

Things could be done exactly the way you want them to be done at your church, but you’d be the one doing them or directing them. It would be nice, and neat, and tidy. No mess. You wouldn’t have to worry about staff members or volunteers challenging your ideas as the pastor because everyone would be executing your ideas the way you want them done. Unfortunately, you’d also never attract or develop any leaders, you’d only be training people to perform tasks that you assign them. You’d be creating followers and as a result putting a lid on the growth of the church. Controlling leaders stifle fun, innovation, and ultimately production. Your team needs to be empowered and unleashed to be who Jesus has created them to be. That’s when they’ll have the most fun and you’ll get the greatest results. The sad, and very dangerous, thing is controlling church leaders actually stifle personal growth in others and the expansion of the Gospel

#2 Preference

As churches grow, leaders either give up their personal preferences or they personally prevent the church from growing. The best leaders I’ve been around ask what’s best for the organization, not what’s best for themselves, and they defer their preferences for the performance of the organization. Which means one day we’ll all be saying why can’t we sing those old Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, or Jesus Culture songs. We are either constantly designing ministry for ourselves or for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus. So do you prefer to reach new people with the Gospel or to go to a church that is designed to fit your preferences?

#3 Lack of Leadership

This may just one guys’ opinion, but I really believe that the greatest crisis facing the modern-day church is a crisis of leadership. We don’t have a “Gospel problem,” or a “God problem,” it’s a Church problem and that starts with leadership. The modern-day Church simply doesn’t attract, develop, or keep leaders. Leaders by their very nature are change agents, and because the unstated goal of most churches is to preserve the past, church leaders often times find themselves fighting the family instead of fighting the enemy.

#4 The Ingrained Behavior to Keep instead of Reach

New things attract new people and new churches reach new people. When a church is starting up it’s all about risk (church planting by its very nature is risky). Over time however it’s easier (and less risky) to do ministry programs to keep church people happy than it is to continue to reach out to people who are outside of the church. You know, those ministry programs that keep the core long-time Christians and long-term attenders happy but have no impact on people outside the faith. While the greatest intention of churches may be to reach new people, their greatest behavior is to keep the ones they have happy.

#5 Pain Tolerance

As I mentioned the leadership secret that no one is telling you about is that there is no leadership without loss. It may not be popular, but it is absolutely, “take it to the bank true.” Most people mistakenly believe that gaining leadership is all about gaining more power, gaining a more influential position, and gaining more prestige and popularity. But leaders who lead at the highest levels know there is no going up, without giving up. And the higher you go in leadership, the more you have to be willing to lose. And this is the reason why many churches stop growing. Simply because those leading them don’t possess the pain tolerance or humility to endure the personal challenge of change, discomfort and loss.


Posted in Leadership

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Are You the Type of Person that can Work at a Fast-Growing Church?

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, Staffing

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It would be Easier if your Church didn’t Grow

Ministry would be a lot easier if your church didn’t grow. I know that most church leadership books, blogs, and conferences are designed to give you the inspiration, principles, training, and tools to help your church grow; but If you really knew the truth about how hard it is to actually grow a church, you probably wouldn’t want to do it. Just think about how much easier it would be if your church didn’t grow. There’s all kinds of difficult things you wouldn’t have to do.

Don’t have to Change

You wouldn’t have to have arguments about changing the style of the worship. You wouldn’t have to worry about people being upset that you’re changing the way things have always been done because you would just keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Don’t have to Give up Control

Things could be done exactly the way you want them to because you’d be doing them. It would be nice, and neat, and tidy. No mess. You wouldn’t have to worry about staff members or volunteers challenging your ideas as the pastor because everyone would be executing your ideas they way you want them done.

Don’t have to Ask People for Money

You wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of talking to people about money. Just think, no building or expansion programs or worries about expanding budgets! People would be happy at your church because you’d never talk about money, they wouldn’t have to be generous and they could live totally self-absorbed lives.

Don’t have to Restructure

You’d never have to fire a staff member. You’d never have to deal with the pressure of potentially making the wrong hire. You’d never have to restructure and reposition a staff member who used to lead close to you but now the growth of the church has outgrown their capacity.

Don’t have to Disappoint People

By not doing any of the previous four items on this list you could actually keep everyone happy. You’d never have to disappoint anyone in your church ever again. And best of all, everyone would like you.

You don’t have to do any of these things if you don’t want your church to grow. But then again you don’t have to obey Jesus either I suppose.


Posted in Leadership

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

Thank you for making September another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s fun to stay 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 posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

The language we choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. And one of the most obvious ways to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.”

What Growing Churches do Differently

It’s not faith, it’s not luck, and it’s not some leadership secret. Growing churches are actually doing something differently than the other 80% of churches in America that are stuck or declining. At the Unstuck Group we work with 100’s of churches every year and we’ve discovered that growing churches are actually doing some very tangible things differently than other churches. Below are just a few of them.

How Many People Should your Church have on Staff?

Before you buy into the idea that you need another staff person at your church, think again. That just may be the worst decision you make at your church this year.

8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering.

Stop Blaming your Team for Underperforming 

If you’ve ever managed a team you know how easy it is to grow frustrated when individuals on the team don’t perform well and the team doesn’t get the results you’re looking for. Unfortunately when things go wrong, the first place most leaders and managers look to place blame is on the team. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Sometimes someone on the team doesn’t do their job and things fail. But the team should be the last place you look to place blame. The first place you should look to place blame is on yourself. When things go wrong on your team, keep the following principles in mind:

Hope is Not a Strategy

Hoping things will get better at your church won’t help things actually get better at your church. In fact the opposite may actually be true.

Church Leadership and the Illusion of Control

Church leaders are supposed to be the best kind of leaders, right? Caring, humble, courageous, strong, and selfless. The term controlling probably wouldn’t make a top-10-list of attributes to describe the ideal church leader. Now I know you’re not a control freak, I mean you’re way to godly for that. But if you’re on a church staff I’m sure you’ve served with a control freak at some point. And control freaks are dangerous, especially in the church.

Why More People Don’t Meet Jesus at your Church

One of the things we’ve learned through our experience and research at theUnstuck Group is that churches in America are only baptizing around 5% of their weekend attendance on average annually. In other words a church of 500 is seeing an average of 25 people take the step to be publicly baptized on an annual basis. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. But it is going to take facing down these big 5 issues that prevent more people from meeting Jesus at your church.

Tearing Down Leadership Idols in the Church

A quick Google search on “Church Leadership” will turn up literally over 170 million links. That’s a lot of content to dig into on church leadership. For all of the talk about church leadership out there today it sure seems that the church is pretty leadership poor. I know some folks down in Texas that would say that churches have a bad case of “big hat, no cattle.” Another way to say it would be that churches are all talk and no action when it comes to leadership.

How your Church can Produce More Leaders

Leadership scarcity is one of the most significant lids that prevent growth in churches today. While many churches are providing great leadership content and training in the form of conferences, classes, or coaching groups few are actually producing more leaders. There is more to developing leaders than providing good leadership content. It doesn’t happen without these 5 key underpinnings. 

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Volunteers
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