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4 Essential Leadership Practices in Ministry

I recently spoke to a group of “emerging leaders,” and was asked to speak about essential leadership practices—areas of leadership where ministry leaders must continually focus. There are at least four essential leadership practices that transcend a role on a local church staff. Regardless of the ministry role, whether leading as senior pastor or in kid’s ministry, student ministry, worship ministry, or missions, these four leadership practices are essential:

1. Shepherd your soul.

In ministry leadership, personal holiness matters. Leaders reproduce who they are, so character is essential. Because our hearts are prone to wander, leaders must care for their own souls, must continually repent and look to Jesus, must consistently feast on the Word of God. In speaking to kid’s ministry leaders, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“I commend to you the study of instructive books, but above all I commend the study of Christ. Let Him be your library. Get near to Jesus. An hour’s communion with Jesus is the best preparation for teaching either the young or the old… I think a teacher is very unwise who does not come to hear the gospel preached and get a meal for his own soul. First be fed, and then feed.”

2. Offer clear direction.

Marcus Buckingham said, “Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.” Wise church leaders clarify, guard, and preach the essentials over and over again. Most importantly, pastors must be clear on the theology that serves as the foundation for the church. Without theological clarity, churches will drift from the faith that was delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 3). Without continually reminding people of the gospel, a church will no longer stand on the strong foundation of the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Or as D. A. Carson has stated, “To assume the gospel in one generation is to lose it in the next.” Ministry leaders must also be continually clear on the ministry philosophy and direction of the church. People long to have a direction painted for them, to see how all that the church does is built on the theology and philosophy of ministry that drives the church. Pastors who fail to offer directional clarity leave a massive vacuum of leadership.

3. Cultivate your culture.

Leaders can easily underestimate the impact of culture. By culture, I am referring to the shared values and beliefs that undergird all the church does. Wise ministry leaders will continually check the culture and, by God’s grace, seek to bring it into deep alignment with the stated theology and ministry philosophy of the church.

4. Develop others.

Leaders are responsible for future leadership, and this is especially true in ministry. The role of a pastor is not to “do ministry” but to equip God’s people for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). A ministry leader who does not develop others is not serving the ministry well. Read the full article 4 Essential Leadership Practices in Ministry that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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3 Reasons You MUST Regularly Think About Succession

With the team I lead at LifeWay, I regularly discuss succession with those on my team. Props goes to Earl Roberson, the associate VP in our division, for encouraging me in this several years ago, setting the example, and operationalizing the practice with our team. We have discussions about who would be ready to move to a broader role, and specifically we ask: “Who is showing that he/she would be ready to move into your role if something happened to you?” In the last 18 months, I have moved two leaders into roles of significantly greater responsibility (in terms of number of employees to oversee, budget to manage, etc.) that routinely showed up on the leader’s “potential succession” document. The transitions have been smooth and the ministry has continued. I don’t think this is only for large organizations but applies to local churches as well. Knowing whom you will pursue for new opportunities or vacant roles is critical in kids ministry, in student ministry, and in the church as a whole. Here are three reasons you must routinely engage in thinking about succession for people on your team.

1. Opportunities will come.

There are new opportunities that will come that are not on your strategic plan. In fact, many people question the wisdom in having a long-term strategic plan as the world is changing so rapidly and it is unlikely that you can predict what your best opportunity will be. Some would say that strategic preparation trumps strategic planning—that the goal is to prepare people for the opportunities that will come. Who is going to lead the new opportunities? Who is going to assume more responsibility? By having discussions about who can move into an existing role, you simultaneously are identifying leaders who could be given a new opportunity.

2. Development takes time.

When an existing role is suddenly open, there is no way to immediately prepare someone for it. Development takes time and intentionality. If you wait to prepare someone for a role until the person moves into the role, you have waited too long. The two people whom I have recently given significantly more responsibility to were routinely placed in environments with our team. They have already understood our strategy, our values, and even read the books our team has read. Prepare people for the role they will have, not the role they are currently in.

3. This world is broken.

We live in a fallen and broken world. Sin has impacted everything, and daily we face the implications of a fallen world. People on our teams can get sick, can face horrible tragedies, and sadly can even disqualify themselves from leading. The theological reality of a fallen world should motivate leaders for the practical discipline of succession thinking. Read the full article 3 Reasons You MUST Regularly Think About Succession that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Six Questions Leaders Should Routinely Ask Themselves

Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Because our lives are like a mist, here now and gone quickly, we should examine them to ensure we are making the most of the time. Leaders are merely stewards. We don’t own the people, the ministry, or the organization we lead. We merely steward the opportunity for a season. Someone will come along after us. Because our leadership is short, we should lead and serve with thoughtful intentionality. Wise leaders routinely evaluate their lives and leadership. Here are six questions leaders should routinely ask themselves:

1. Who is influencing me?

Whom a leader listens to determines much of what a leader does. So leaders are wise to evaluate the voices that are impacting their decision-making, their perspectives, and their attitudes.

2. What am I learning?

Leaders who stop learning will eventually stop leading effectively. A lack of learning in one season of leadership leaves a leader ill-prepared in the next. Max De Pree said that we cannot stop from growing old, but we can stop from growing cold. We can keep growing, learning, and developing. And leaders must.

3. What must be repeated?

Max De Pree also said, “Leadership is like third grade: it means repeating the significant things.” The most important things must be repeated so that they remain a priority. Core beliefs, mission, and values must never be assumed; they must be continually preached and protected.

4. What should be eliminated?

Leaders often wrestle with capacity, with having the mental and emotional energy to leverage against the most important and essential things. One way to create more capacity is to develop yourself (question 2). Another way to create capacity is to stop doing the unimportant and unnecessary things.

5. Where should I be investing my energy and focus?

Another way to ask this question is “What is most important now?” Without a “now,” leaders can spend time maintaining the status quo. Knowing what is most important now (not necessarily most urgent) can help leaders know where their time and energy can be leveraged.

6. Whom am I developing?

Leaders are responsible for future leadership. If a leader is not developing others, the leader is hampering the growth of the team and threatening the future of the organization. Read the full article Six Questions Leaders Should Routinely Ask Themselves that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Five Necessary Character Traits for Handling Criticism Well

Elbert Hubbard quipped, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Because leaders cannot afford to do nothing or say nothing, being criticized comes with the territory of being a leader. In leadership, affirmation today does not mean affirmation tomorrow. In many ways leaders face the same volatility as coaches who can, within a few games, go from being lauded as team chemistry geniuses, program architects, and master recruiters to ignorant, foolish risk-takers, and ineffective. Leaders are one decision, one quarter, one bad message away from unfair criticism. Criticism is going to come. Those who handle it well have these five character traits:

1. Humility

Leaders who handle criticism well are humble. While they don’t agree with all their critics, they also know they are not always right, not infallible, and not invincible. It takes humility not to overreact.

2. Love

Criticism always hurts. I have interacted with many leaders who are perceived as being unscathed by critics but deep down are wounded. What enables them to work through the criticism ultimately isn’t tough skin but hearts that are tender for people who are being served. Their love for people is what keeps them going. Leaders who love the people they serve won’t let critics keep them from serving.

3. Conviction

Leaders who are filled with a deep conviction for their assignment are less likely to be distracted by criticism. If a leader lacks conviction, the leader will be swayed by every opinion. If a leader is convinced in the direction, criticism may hurt but it won’t derail.

4. Wisdom

Wise leaders are able to discern what criticism should be discarded and what criticism should be contemplated and learned from. Because they are able to wisely disregard the criticism that should be disregarded, they are able to continue leading without being crushed.

5. Faith

Approval junkies make for poor leaders. The good news is that those of us who know the Lord and are His have already found our approval. Criticism won’t change the reality that we are already approved in Christ. Only by following Jesus can you love people and not be crushed if they don’t love you. If our identity is in Him, we are not destroyed when our leadership is questioned, when people we serve don’t appreciate our service. Read the full article Five Necessary Character Traits for Handling Criticism Well that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Three Ways Ministry Leaders Think Strategically

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo and former VP at Google, has told a great story about a phrase that greatly impacted her. The summer after her senior year of high school, she attended the National Youth Science Camp and was impressed by guest lecturer Zoon Nguyen. As the students were discussing their awe of Zoon’s brilliance, a counselor chimed in and said, “You have it all wrong. It’s not what Zoon knows, it’s how Zoon thinks.” Zoon could be “put in an entirely new environment or presented with an entirely new problem, and within a matter of minutes, he would be asking the right questions and making the right observations.” Mayer says she was really impacted by the phrase “It is not what Zoon knows, but how Zoon thinks.” (*) Strategic thinking is more about how a leader thinks than what a leader knows. A strategic leader thinks about more than merely what is done. A strategic leader thinks about why and how something is done. A strategic ministry leader doesn’t merely know a lot about ministry or only have a lot of experience in ministry; a strategic ministry leader thinks deeply about how ministry can be most effective. Ministry tasks and programs are not just mindlessly executed. More than what we are doing, a strategic ministry leader thinks about the why and the how. How can a ministry leader learn to think more strategically? Here are three practical ways to think more intentionally about local church ministry:

1. Think onramps, not cul-de-sacs

An onramp is a tool to help someone access the journey. A cul-de-sac is an end in itself. For example, there is a major difference in a leader who treats an event as an onramp and one who treats an event as a cul-de-sac. A cul-de-sac thinker celebrates the event as an end in itself. An onramp thinker views the event as a catalyst for other opportunities, to move people into the journey of the church.

2. Think handoffs, not only programs

Oftentimes the fastest teams do not win relay races. Relay teams win because they have mastered the art of the handoff. In the same way, effective ministry strategy is much more than producing great programs. Thinking strategically includes thinking about how people can progress through a discipleship process, not merely attend isolated programs within one. Thinking strategically includes thinking about the handoffs from one program to another. For example, a church can offer great worship services that are rooted in Scripture and simultaneously offer groups that help people live in biblical community. But the space between the programs is often the hard work. How a church moves people from attending to attaching is one example of the art of the handoff.

3. Think “Now what?”

A strategic ministry leader thinks about more than the what of programs but also thinks about the how and why of everything the church does. A strategic ministry leader is disciplined to think, “Now what?” Instead of an event just ending, a program closing, or an initiative concluding, a strategic leader, for the sake of the people being served, thinks about what is to come. This is a true statement about strategic and intentional thinking: It is not just what you know but how you think.
* Here is a transcript of Mayer recounting the story during a commencement speech: http://transcriptvids.com/v/jaKoMCujc2k.html The post Three Ways Ministry Leaders Think Strategically appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Leaders Must Create More Capacity, But How?

Wise leaders apply their best thinking to the most important things. This is, of course, easier said than done because of the sheer volume of things that leaders are asked or required to think about. Because we are finite and flawed, we have a limited amount of mental capacity. For a leader, there are always hundreds of tasks, problems, and opportunities that could be swimming around in the mind at any given time. So how can a leader create mental capacity? In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande says that all problems can be divided into these three categories:
  • Simple problems: A simple problem is one that can be solved by following a recipe. Baking a cake, for example, is simple. You just follow the recipe.
  • Complicated problems: A complicated problem is really a series of simple problems. It’s a bunch of simple problems connected. Sending a rocket into space is complicated, but a recipe can be developed and replicated.
  • Complex problems: A complex problem is one that cannot be exactly replicated or repeated. Parenting a child, for example, is complex. Just because you have raised one does not mean you can raise the next one the same way. Each child is unique.
Of these three types of problems, where do you apply your best thinking? Where should you apply most of your mental energy and capacity? Clearly the complex is what needs our best thinking, our most focused mental energy. To create more capacity for the complex, wise leaders seek to systemize and operationalize the simple and complicated problems. The simple and complicated are not less important; they are absolutely essential in leadership. But they can be operationalized and systemized so that organizational energy is focused on execution and not continually recreating and forming steps. If you find you are constantly solving simple and complicated problems, work to develop processes and checklists. A checklist for simple problems can help you create more capacity for the complex ones. Atul Gawande would simply say, “Build checklists to get the dumb stuff out of the way, so you can focus on the hard stuff.” The post Leaders Must Create More Capacity, But How? appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Five Ways Leaders Can Get “Fresh Eyes”

There are a plethora of upsides to tenure. You learn the organization over time. You understand the context better and better. You build relationships with the team and the people you are serving. For the most part, tenure makes leaders more effective. But there is a major downside to tenure; leaders can lose their fresh eyes. When a leader first enters a context, the opportunities and challenges are seen more clearly. Granted, they are often seen through inexperienced and naïve eyes, but they are still seen. Over time, leaders get inoculated to the problems in their own cultures. The same happens in our personal lives. When you first move into… [Read More] The post Five Ways Leaders Can Get “Fresh Eyes” appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.

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Six Reasons Why Longer-tenured Pastorates Are Better

“I wish I had stayed.” I’ve heard that sentence from many pastors. Given the perspective of several years, they wish that had not left a church as soon as they did. Indeed, I was one of those pastors. For certain, there will be times that pastors should move on after only a few years at a given church. This post does not apply to all pastors. And other pastors can’t help their short tenure because they were forced out of their churches. In some cases, they were appointed to another church by a judicatory authority. But this post is about the rest of them. The more research I do and the more I hear from pastors, the more I am convinced. As a rule, longer-tenured pastorates are better. Let me share six of the main reasons.
  1. Our research continues to show a strong correlation to pastoral tenure and church health. Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong, if not overwhelming, in favor of long tenure.
  2. The breakout years of pastoral tenure typically begin after years 5 to 7. In other words, the best years of a pastor’s tenure, both for the pastor and the church, do not begin until at least five years have passed. Unfortunately, the majority of pastors in America do not stay at a church for five or more years.
  3. Relationships take time, particularly in church leadership. Keep this perspective in mind. When pastors begin ministry in a church, they are the newest people at their respective churches. Relationships are already established among the members. That is why I’ve heard from many church members that a pastor did not seem like “their pastor” until about five years passed.
  4. Nearly nine out of ten churches in America are in need of turnaround leadership. Turnaround leadership is most often methodical and incremental. It can’t be accomplished in just a few years.
  5. Community relationships and impact take time as well. In most communities, pastors are not considered a part of the locality until they have been there at least five years. A church, to be effective, must have a positive presence in the community led by an accepted pastor.
  6. Pastors and churches will have had time to go through a crisis or conflict. The typical period for significant conflict is in years 2 to 4. The longer the pastorate, the greater the likelihood that the church and the pastor have gotten to the other side of the conflict.
The issue of pastoral tenure has so many implications. This brief post touches upon just a few of them. I look forward to hearing your perspectives on this important matter.

The post Six Reasons Why Longer-tenured Pastorates Are Better appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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