Tag Archive - effort


How to Shorten your Leadership Recovery Time

Leadership requires a tremendous amount of energy. When things go poorly it’s easy to become discouraged and emotionally drained. When things are going well the momentum of winning can mask the amount of personal leadership fuel that you’re burning through. In both good times and bad times, high times and low times leadership requires a tremendous amount of energy.

That’s why you need a plan to shorten your leadership recovery time.

Think “Energy” not “Effort”

Effort is too simple a way to look at things. If you’re a successful leader then of course you’re going to give a good effort. You need to think more about managing your energy than your time or effort. Make a list of what (or who) gives you energy and what takes it away and respond accordingly with your schedule. It’s possible to work hard and give a great deal of effort and time to something and afterward feel great because you gained energy from doing it.

Determine your “Finish Line”

Every day set a finish line for yourself. It may be different each day but set a finish line. It may be after a project, a particular meeting, a particular time or an end of the day routine you have. It’s a moment where you’re going to set it down, push it aside and turn it off. A moment where your family and those you care about the most get your attention instead of your work. Win the day by getting to your finish line each day.

Take Personal Ownership

The quickest way to recover from a leadership misstep or failure is to take personal ownership. Don’t shift blame or point fingers. Simply shoulder the responsibility for what went wrong. Even if it was someone else downline that made a mistake, you’re the one who put them in that situation by hiring them, training them, resourcing them and communicating to them about the initiative. The first-place great leaders always look when things go wrong is to themselves and what they could have done differently to make thing more successful. This also shortens their recover time dramatically because they aren’t shifting and searching for someone to blame and they get on the solution side of things quickly.

What’s your Personal Replenishment Cycle?

Once you’ve determined what gives you energy the next step is to calendar it. The two most spiritual documents in the world are the Bible and your calendar.  The Bible is where you learn about what God wants for you and your calendar is where you put it into action. What are the 3 – 5 things that you are going to calendar weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly to replenish yourself? After all the Church is not responsible for church staff burnout the church staff are.

Talk “With People” not “About Them”

Nothing creates more sideways emotional energy in organizations and churches than talking about people instead of talking to them. You can’t do anything about a problem that’s not in the room.

Posted in Leadership


When to Invest in a Young Leader and When to Ignore Them

Like it or not, millennials are making their way into leadership roles in churches across America. As they take their newfound place in church leadership many of them are looking for someone to invest in them and help develop them as young emerging leaders.

Experienced leaders are always going to have more opportunities available to say yes to than capacity to meet them. This is true in leadership and this is true in developing young talent. You have to make a choice. So, choose wisely. How do you know who to invest in and who to ignore?

Young, naïve, and inexperienced talent doesn’t bother me. But young talent that is void of the following four intangibles scares me to death.


Skills can be trained but talent is developed. Talent is something you have or you don’t have. It’s something you’re born with or is gifted to you by the Holy Spirit. You get the gifts you’re given. For instance, if someone has been given the spiritual gift of leadership, it can be developed and that art can be perfected over time through study and practice. Others without the spiritual gift of leadership may learn leadership skills but they’ll never have the talent to lead at the same level as someone with a leadership gift. I’m looking for young leaders who are very talented.


In a world where everyone gets a participation trophy and kids are taught that they can do anything and be anything they want to be in life; what I’m about to say isn’t going to be very popular. But it will be true. While different people may have similar talents, they may have different capacities. The Bible is clear that while many people may get similar or even the same gifts, that they are given in different measure. So, no you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be the best you that you’re designed to be. That being said, I’m looking for young leaders who have a high capacity.


In the book of James, he Bible teaches us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  You can’t give something to someone who doesn’t want to or isn’t ready to receive it. (both matter by the way). You can’t teach someone who isn’t teachable. I’m looking for young leaders who demonstrate a teachable spirit.


It’s okay for a young leader not to have an answer, but it’s not okay for that same young leader to not go find the answer. It’s okay for a young leader to fail and not get everything right the first time. It’s not okay for a young leader to not try as hard as they possibly can to succeed. I’m looking for young leaders who demonstrate tremendous effort.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing


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.

The other day my 11-year-old daughter was asking me about a group of people she perceived to be controlling. With the innocent insight that only a child seems to have she said, “In the books I read people who are controlling are usually the bad guys.”

So here’s to hoping that you never turn out to be a “bad guy.”

Control is an Illusion

I’m about to say something that’s going to be difficult for some of you to hear. You’re not in control. I know you think you are…but…you’re not. Control is an illusion. I know all of you’re calendaring, budgeting, planning, organizational charts, and administrating tell you that I’m wrong. But I’m right. Those things lull you into thinking you’re in control and provide the illusion of control. It’s comfortable, like a warm blanket. But don’t be seduced into becoming a control freak. You’ll be in for a very rude awakening one day.

Jesus isn’t a Control Freak

Jesus is a gentleman. If you want to go down a path that isn’t good for you or others around you, He’ll actually let you do that. He may be sad for you because the choice isn’t the best for you, but He’s not going to freak out or fret about your choice. He most likely isn’t going to rescue you from the consequences of your decisions but He’ll let you make them. Even when He knows how life is designed to work and you choose your own way.

Your Policies can’t Control Outcomes

I know that you think your policies will make everybody behave the way you want them to and make everything run like a predictable well-oiled machine but unfortunately they won’t. I know that statement is hard for some of you to read, I’m sorry. I really am. I wish it weren’t true, it be easier if it weren’t true. But it is. Your policies might help you mitigate some risk, they may help you institutionalize the culture you’re trying to build, but they won’t control outcomes. No matter what policy you have in place, if someone wants to do something stupid, they will. Oh, and when you do try to control everything with over policying (I don’t think that’s a word) things, you’ll actually drive your most talented team members away.

Your Team needs to be Unleashed not Controlled

I know you think you’re pretty special, truth is you are. But Jesus has gifted your team with some pretty incredible gifts too. In fact I bet they have gifts that you don’t have. 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.

The Only thing you can Control is your Attitude and your Effort

The good news is there is something you can control, and that’s you. You are responsible for what happens inside of you, how you respond to life, and the actions you take. Every moment of every day you have the incredible opportunity to control your attitude and your effort. There’s not much that you can actually control and change, but you can control and change you. Truth is, that’s probably enough. Much more and it would probably be a bit overwhelming.

Photo Credit: fishbulb1022 via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing


How Centralizing Ministry is Crippling Your Church

Many churches are enamored with the idea of centralization. Internally you’ll even hear churches talk about ideas like efficiencies, being streamlined or getting rid of redundancies.

In many multisite churches it’s even common to hear the term “Central Services” thrown around, a workgroup that is essentially designed to do away with redundancies and duplication of efforts between campuses. For instance, having one business department instead of staffing a business department or function on every campus. Seems smart right?

While at first pass centralization may seem like an efficient approach to greater ministry impact and moving further faster, it’s not always the best thing for the advancement of the mission of the church. In fact here are 6 ways well intentioned churches are unknowingly crippling their ministry impact for the sake of centralization.

1. Slows Decision Making

In a centralized system decisions get pushed up in the organization instead of down. It forces high-level staff members to deal with low-level problems. And it takes decision making away from those on the front line who are closest to the problem and probably know the most about it. Whenever Sr. level leaders are dealing with the wrong issues it slows the pace of any church or organization

2. Makes Communication Cumbersome

When communication has to be filtered through one person (the gatekeeper), or funneled through a chain of people you’ve got problem on your hands. Layers of bureaucracy, policy, and multistep communication chains slow progress towards the mission. And it creates more opportunities for miscommunication, misrepresentation, and misinterpretation of decision-making and actions to be taken.

3. Creates an “Us vs. Them “ Mentality

Whenever “we” have to wait for “them” to make a decision, and “they” don’t understand what “we” are dealing with on the frontline because “they” are somewhere back at a centralized headquarters it creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality.

4. Undermines Innovation

In any organization or church one of the most important sources for innovation and creative problem solving is the frontline employee or volunteer. Centralization takes away power from that individual to creatively solve their own problems and as a result people don’t learn how to think, rather they’re trained to just take orders. As a result creativity and innovation begin to dry up.

5. Requires very little Trust

When someone doesn’t need to be trusted to think and act through the filter of the culture of the church or organization it’s demoralizing. Conversely it’s an empowering thing to know that one is trusted, it boosts one’s spirit and often encourages them to rise to the occasion and actually increase the level of their game. Trust is the fuel that the best leaders and churches run on and if you’re not careful centralization can begin to erode trust and damage your culture.

6. The Gospel was Never meant to be Controlled

Ultimately the dance that church leaders do regarding centralization vs. decentralization comes down to an issue of control. And the Gospel was never meant to be controlled or managed it was meant to be unleashed.

Photo Credit: JustinJensen via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership


Top Posts of 2013 #9: “Defining the Leadership Culture at Your Church”

A lot of man hours, conversations and work went into building this post before it ever hit the internet. One of the reasons this post was so popular is because it provided a great example for churches. Building a leadership culture is something that is talked about a lot, but rarely clearly defined in churches. My hope in sharing this was not for it to be copied, but for it to provide an example of what could be. Hope it’s helpful!

Organizational Culture is the squishy stuff that is often difficult for even the most experienced leaders to clearly articulate. But just because it’s difficult and forces you to have uncomfortable conversations, face the brutal facts, and do the hard work of mining out the best ideas doesn’t mean it should be avoided. In fact the best leaders have a crystal clear picture of the behavioral norms that both reflect and build the desired culture in an organization. If you plan on perpetuating your culture you’d better be able to clearly articulate it and get others to see it…after all as Peter Drucker famously said…

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Every organization has a culture – attitudes they want adopted, values they want championed, beliefs they want instilled and behaviors they want reproduced. Leaders are the cultural architects of any organization.  Eventually every organization takes on the character and priorities of its leaders.  As a result, leaders need to become intentional in creating culture.

At Sun Valley Community Church, there are a few things that make our staff culture unique.  There is a way of operating and a way of treating others that we expect from those who are in leadership.  We have been working diligently to try to capture them in a few memorable, clear statements. We’ve gotten it down to 7 clear and concise statements (with further explanation that’s been added in) that we believe capture the essence of our culture. Don’t be confused, these are not the same thing as organizational values. These are staff norms, distinctives, and behaviors that both reflect and build a desired culture. I’m not posting these here to copy or to mimic. You have to discover and be true to your unique identity as a leader and organization. However I am posting these here as an example and to hopefully encourage others to do the hard work of clearly defining and articulating your own culture.

#1 LeadershipWe choose to love first and lead second, but always do both.

The Bible describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).  He knew when to be compassionate and when to be bold and he used the perfect mixture of both for any/every situation.  Jesus was the perfect man and the perfect leader.

We are not so fortunate.  Most of us lean to one side or the other.  Some are primarily grace givers, while others are truth tellers.  Grace givers believe the best about everyone.  They take people at their word and believe in a God of “second chances.”  However their weakness is that their trust is sometimes unfounded and at other times they don’t delve into problems and get to the root issue.  As a result, people may feel accepted but because of an unwillingness to confront obstacles to growth, they never become the leader God meant them to be.

Truth tellers have a different perspective.  They believe that “the truth will set you free” and so they willingly and consistently point out opportunities for improvement and change.  You never have to worry about knowing what is on the mind of a truth teller.  They are forthright and honest in conversation, whether confrontational or friendly.  However, very often truth tellers miss the relational side of ministry and as a result are seen as insensitive, abrupt and harsh.

At Sun Valley we expect our leaders to learn how to lead others with both grace and truth.  We believe that truth is best received when there is a strong foundational context that “we want something for you, not from you.”  We train leaders how to say the hard things in caring ways. Relationship is a key to receptivity. High trust paves the way for high challenge.

In our culture, the order of grace and truth matters.  Truth is spoken in the context of relationship.  When people know they are loved, accepted and respected, they will be more receptive to much needed change.  We also choose never to stop with only love.  It is never loving to leave out the truth. Love does what is best for the other person no matter what they get in return.  We love first, lead second, but always do both.

#2 RiskWe have a big God, so we take big risks and trust Him for big results.

Nothing is impossible for God.  He has commissioned His church to reach the world with the Gospel.  Therefore, God designed the church to be on the offensive in its dealings with the world.  In Mt. 16:18 Jesus states, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The only thing that can stop the church is the church.

And yet many churches take very few risks to reach those who are far from God.  Instead they house themselves in comfortable buildings and focus their resources on making the already convinced more comfortable.

This is not God’s plan for the church.  At Sun Valley, we encourage our staff to try big things to reach more people.  The world is rapidly changing which means methods need to change.   Leaders in the Sun Valley culture will experiment.  We are not afraid to try things and make mistakes.  We also understand that “new” is not necessarily better, “effective” is better.  We have high trust in our leaders.  This high trust leads to high expectations.  So we expect our leaders to key in on results.

Therefore when resources are limited and results are expected, evaluation becomes vital.  We evaluate everything, consistently trying to improve “what is,” to make it what “it could be” and “should be.”  We hire leaders who are willing to try new things and expect them to become “masters of midcourse correction.”  We have a big God, so we take big risks and trust Him for big results.

Yes…I know this is a long post…skim the highlights if you’d like. But I’ve put it all on here to help provide some kind of model for those interested in intentionally building a culture at their church. Keep reading if you want to learn more.


#3 EffortWe work hard, give our best and put family first.

Christians should work harder than anyone else on the planet.  The Bible teaches that the ability to work is a gift from God and that ministry is a privilege. Therefore work ethic should never be an issue for the believer.  At Sun Valley, we expect our staff to work hard.

We also give our best.  The ability to be “all here” at work is vital.  Focus, attentiveness and professionalism are expected attributes of all or leaders.  Prompt communication, collaboration and continual growth and improvement of ministry are norms for our culture.  We hire staff to get a job done.  We expect them to set goals, devise strategies, implement tactics, raise up volunteers and reproduce leaders so that greater impact can result.

We hire self-starters who are willing to report progress in a timely manner and are willing to receive coaching.  We look for self-motivated people who feel responsible for their ministry portion as well as their own personal growth (the person primarily responsible for your professional growth is you) but can work very well within the context of a team.  We look for leaders who not only work harder but smarter and who lead with moral authority – your effort should be an example to the person who works full-time and then gives significant effort to ministry.  The speed of the leader determines the speed of the team.  We expect your best.

At the same time, we also know that our greatest ministry is to our family.  Family is your greatest responsibility.  An unwillingness to focus on family has led many to ministry disqualification.  We want you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse and a healthy relationship with your kids.

As such, staff families need to understand that ministry is very often seasonal in nature.  There are times when ministry will be very intense and you will be working at an unsustainable pace.  There are also down times when ministry is not as intense and much more freedom is provided.  We hire staff that understand that this balance between ministry and family is not a problem to be solved, but a tension to be managed. And we expect our staff to become experts in managing this tension.  We work hard, give our best and put family first.

#4 Team – We want to take the hill, and we want to take it together.

The whole reason we are in ministry is to reach the world.  We have a job to be done, a goal to be accomplished and a dream that one day every person has had an opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus.  This is why we exist.  So we set goals, make plans and move forward.  This is the hill we want to take.

In the midst of trying to take the hill, we have realized that we are better together than we could ever be apart.  Sun Valley functions best as a team effort.  There is a power to collaboration.  There is a synergy that happens when each one of us takes our skills and abilities and combines them with those of the other members of the team.

We ask everyone to organize ministry in teams.  We push each other, sharpen each other, challenge each other and make each other better.  There are no silos at Sun Valley – no one is expected to work alone or go it alone.  Everyone is expected to function with a team of peers on staff and develop a team of leaders in ministry.  No one person has the best ideas all the time. Instead we learn to leverage each other’s strengths.  And together, we become a high performing team.

The pace of our ministry can become intense at times.  If someone falls behind, we will do whatever we can to bring him or her up to speed and keep them moving forward with the team.  However, if we determine that this person is unable to keep pace with the rest of the team, we will first try to reposition that person to a position with a more moderate pace.  If that does not work, our last resort is to replace them on the team, so that we can continue to move forward.  We want to take the hill, and we want to take it together.

#5 AttitudeWe live on the solution side of every issue.

We expect the ministry to grow at Sun Valley.  Growth necessitates change and change always comes with its set of challenges and problems.  It’s easy to see the problems.  Anyone can do that.  The challenge is not seeing the problem but forming the solution.

We expect Sun Valley staff to be proactive when it comes to problem solving, whether you are anticipating problems before they occur or solving them as they happen.  We expect them to engage in interaction with other leaders to solve the issue.  We expect them to behave as if they are owners of every portion of the ministry of Sun Valley.

We expect staff to have a “Can do” mentality.  No matter how difficult the task, we expect staff to try and to have a positive outlook, a cooperative spirit and a willingness to “get dirty” in order to move forward.  When the issue is a performance issue, we ask that staff assume ignorance rather than obstinance.  When training has failed and it is proven to be an attitudinal issue we will address it as a character problem.  We train ignorance and challenge obstinance.

Complaining is contagious.  We expect staff to understand the “bucket principle.”  Any time a problem arises, it is like a fire. When staff becomes aware of an issue they must recognize that they have two buckets – a bucket of water or a bucket of gas.  Getting on the solution side of the issue is like pouring water on the fire while joining in on the complaint side is like pouring gas on it.   We live on the solution side of every issue.

#6 Sober-minded – We know who we are and who we’re not and we do what is best for the whole.

We expect leaders to know what they are great at and what they stink at.

Nothing is more damaging to ministry progress than a leader who is not self-aware.  A lack of self-awareness creates an uncomfortable cringe factor for everyone else on the team.

There is great power to knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  As a result better teams are formed, better decisions are made and better implementation results in bigger results.  Therefore Sun Valley staff seek others input about personal strengths and weaknesses and defer to the team wisdom over personal ambition.

Sober-minded leaders surround themselves with leaders that are better than they are.  They defer decisions to those who will make the best ones.  They choose to lead in areas of strength.  Sun Valley staff thrives on humility and teachability – they are able to take on the posture of a servant and a learner.  They are able to celebrate others strengths and laugh about their own personal weaknesses.

At Sun Valley we expect our leaders to trust in the intentions of the rest of the team when difficult conversations about strengths and weaknesses occur.  We expect them to defer to the team.  Every decision that is made must go through the filter of “What is best for Sun Valley?” not “What do I want to do?”

#7 OutsidersWe exist for those who are not here yet.

Everything we do at Sun Valley is to help fulfill the Great Commission – making disciples out of “them.”  This is the “hill” we are taking.  Our greatest focus is to make more of “them” a part of “us” so that they can join us in reaching more of “them.”

To emphasize this priority, we give special attention to tracking new attendees, “Yes” decisions and baptisms.  These metrics are signs of health and mission focus.  We expect all ministry leaders to become keenly aware of these stats in their areas of oversight.

Being outsider focused greatly impacts how we do ministry for “insiders.”  The intentional focus on reaching people is a part of true maturity in Christ – who came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  All our ministries that impact insiders are for the express purpose of training them to reach outsiders.  As we are “helping each other move toward authentic Christian living” (our mission statement), the greatest sign of success is that they live out “Authenticity, Community, and Generosity,” (our values) and move through “Come-Grow-Serve-Go” (our pathway).

We expect staff to support unapologetically the design of our weekend services to be guest-friendly.  We expect our leaders to have a plan on how guests will be effectively welcomed in their ministry environments (whether large, medium or small group settings).  We expect ministry trainings to focus on making outsiders insiders and to help insiders make relational room for outsiders in their personal lives.  We expect our leaders to model outreach to neighbors, friends, relatives and co-workers in their personal lives.  Because, we exist for those who are not here yet.

Posted in Leadership
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