Ministry Today proudly presents Greenelines, a new blog from Dr. Steve Greene.
Dr. Greene writes on a wide range of topics important to leaders, church administrators and young leaders in development.
He has lead business organizations, served as a dean of a college of business and lead as a senior pastor. Greene's primary focus is to equip the leaders of saints.Read Greenelines
Are you a leader who is “All In?”
I want leaders on my team who are “all in.” Coaches want players who are “all in” on their teams. Every organization out there wants employees and team members who are “all in.”
Being ALL IN as a leader means:
The word “no” is a hard word for many people. But I have learned that it is one of the most important words we can learn to say if we want to excel in ministry and leadership.
At the same time, hearing “no” can be really demoralizing.
How can we create healthy boundaries using the word “no,” while still excelling in grace and likeability? If we are going to increase our influence and become the best versions of ourselves we must learn embrace and navigate this tension well.
So here are three thoughts I have about learning to be better with “no”:
“Pastor, the minute you decide church must always be exciting is the moment you begin turning the worship services into pep rallies. After that, it all goes downhill.”
I said that on Facebook the other day and enraged a few people.
“Worshiping the Lord should always be exciting,” one person insisted. I replied, “I’m doing the funeral of a 53-year-old man today. It will be comforting, but not exciting.”
I understand where the guy is coming from.
By definition, a narcissist is a person who believes the world evolves around them to such an extent their own desires blind them to relational reality which makes them insensitive to the needs and perspectives of others. One of the sad realities in our consumer driven, hedonistic culture is that we are producing millions of narcissistic people including leaders of large organizations.
Because of our sinful nature as human beings, all of us have some narcissistic tendencies to deal with.
The following traits identify leadership narcissism:
This is a topic that freaked me out my first year in youth ministry. As a young parent myself, it’s not easy telling grown ups how to deal with their children.
So, it took me a while to really get to a place where I was comfortable with talking to parents. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. I thought I’d list some principles that I’m learning along the way that has helped me navigate dealing with parents.
Know your role to parents. We are support to parents first and foremost. Let them take the lead. My value is in being another voice for the student to hear the same message that their parents give. It may sound different and even be presented differently, but it should be the same message—unless, of course, the message is contrary to God’s word.
It has been well documented that today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest ways for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.
I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is the pastor isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. I get that. I think all of us struggle with that one … both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.
How do we remain authentic as leaders? Here are 7 thoughts on remaining an authentic leader:
I love the community that has formed on my blog. There are several people who are regular commenters; they have become a part of my blog's family, and I feel like I know them.
Some of them come to the blog in affirmation of what I have written. I am always grateful for such encouragement. But some visitors disagree with me. I gladly post their comments for two reasons. First, I want to be fair to all who take time to read my blog. Second, I am wrong some of the time and I need to be corrected.
How This Story Began
Sometimes, however, people come to my blog hurting deeply. They need a place where they can be heard, and they need a place where they can share your pain without fear of retribution. That is why I allow them to comment in anonymity if they so desire. My only requirement is that they enter their legitimate email address in case we need to confirm that they're not hiding behind a fake address. But we will never publish email addresses.
For more than 15 years, I have studied the biblical reality of spiritual warfare. Many of my writings (e.g., Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor) address this topic that evangelicals have often neglected. I regret that evangelicals have been afraid of this topic because the enemy is nevertheless real.
Recently, a church leader asked me what tactics I’ve seen the enemy most use against leaders. In no particular order, here are the 10 most common strategies I’ve seen.
I’m not sure most of us preachers fully believe the scriptural command to avoid word fights:
“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14, NASB).
After all, aren’t some words worth wrangling over?
“Wrangling about words” conjures images of cowboys at the corral trying to tame a bucking theological term that won’t hold still.
If you love to learn, improve and grow, think back on who helped to ignite that fire within you.
A mentor in my late teen years, Ray Crowell, was the first person to inspire me to grow as a person. He taught me to think, and he challenged my thinking. From philosophy to human nature—oh yeah, and girls—we talked about everything. My world became larger because of Ray.
John Maxwell is my longtime friend and mentor in life and leadership. I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary thinking I was ready to pastor and lead. Little did I know—and it’s a good thing John was there. From attitude to relationships, he poured into me as a young leader. My life would never be the same.
Everywhere I go, I hear that song playing. It’s on TV, radio, at ball games, in convenient stores—all over.
It’s gotten stuck in my head. So I started thinking on the title and reflecting on past experiences and conversations.
I started thinking about how many pastors stay up late Saturday night working on their Sunday morning message, hoping to get “lucky.” Hoping they will deliver and come through with excellence. Friends, it doesn’t work like that.
“They have eyes, and yet they don’t see.”
Many leaders don’t see the fruit that is about to manifest in those around them. All they can see is the tree. A tree can look strong, weak, ugly or handsome, but that’s just the tree. The real test is what will it put forth.
Especially in a small town, I’ve found there are three kinds of people (trees) that I have to constantly be on the lookout for in order for our church to go where God intends it to go. They are:
Being a leader is not easy. Not by a long shot. In fact, with all of the hard work and criticism we face, sometimes it can feel like a lonely, thankless job. At the same time, we were never made to go this alone.
Here are eight relationships you can’t live without as a leader:
1. Mentor. Having someone who believes in you and cares deeply for your life as a whole is vital to your success as a leader. I can’t imagine my life without the mentors God has given me. If you don’t have a mentor, don’t wait for one to come to you. Seek one out.
Look for someone who is a believer in others and will take time for you and look to your interests.
Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion—lots of different opinions. Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others. At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader.
That leads many leaders into becoming victims of people pleasing. When we fall prey to pleasing people as a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinion polls than vision.
Every pastor and leader I know agrees that people pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say that this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. That’s dangerous. Hopefully I don’t have to build that case.
Did you know there is a very common word that is used in our culture that you cannot find in the Bible? It is the word competition. Jesus never talked about it, but He did talk about the opposite of that word.
What is the greatest catalyst that allows the unsaved to make a decision for Jesus Christ? It isn’t prayer, though this is important. It isn’t good deeds, though deeds indicate a fruitful relationship with God. It isn’t good behavior, though Christ commands us to be obedient as sons.
I’ve learned that relating to students is more about what you do than who you are. I wrote a post a while ago called “The Bs to Being a Great Youth Leader,” and it was about clearing up the misconceptions of what a youth leader has to be in order to relate to students. I believe the misconceptions of who a youth leader has to be cheapens youth ministry in general.
I believe the focus of a youth minister should be on what they do and not on who they are. Because I believe youth ministry is mostly about relationships, the fact that God created us to be in relationship with Him plays a huge part in that idea. Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse.
I’ve never considered being called average a compliment. I think it means you’re just as close to the bottom as on top.
I don’t believe God meant for you to be average. I don’t think God meant for you to live a so-so or bland, mediocre life. As a leader, I don’t think God intends for you to be an average leader.
I believe every human being was designed for excellence—that you’re not one in a million; you’re one in 5 billion. And as the book In Search of Excellence states, “The average person desires to be excellent in many different ways.” There is no one else like you in the universe.
Alisha’s life was a mess. Her family was dysfunctional and broken. Her past was littered with poor choices, shattered promises, substances and illicit relationships.
She hated her parents, despised authority and was angry with God ... that is, until she met some people who saw beyond her exterior and realized the beauty that lay deep inside.
When she arrived on the campus of an international boarding school in the Caribbean, she was greeted by people who refused to evaluate her by what they saw. They did not judge her by her beauty, her height, her build or her features.
This is the fourth blog post in a series (intro, Part 1, Part 2) regarding pastors developing healthy boundaries in their ministries. I’m sharing four key points in the process, thinking of them as four fence posts around a healthy ministry.
The next may be the hardest to implement in our culture. Also, I imagine it will generate the most disagreement. However, I think it demonstrates a biblical approach to the shepherding of a congregation, rather than turning the church into a place where a group of customers demand their area of interest be paramount.
The third post supporting a healthy ministry is guarding your flock, even if it is from other Christians.
The title of this article may seem both presumptuous and audacious. Do I really believe every pastor should have a blog? Yes, I do.
I speak to pastors in numerous settings, and I am able to share with them the benefits of such a discipline in writing.
Understand that writing a blog can begin simple, with little time pressure. The pastor can commit to writing 400 words a week in one post. I do recommend that the number of posts increases to at least twice a week later, but you need to start somewhere.
I think you will be amazed how much the blog benefits the church and your ministry. Here are seven reasons why it is so important:
Have you ever thought that a guest at your church might, in fact, be a spy? My church consulting company uses church “spies” to help us evaluate how churches respond to guests. Our spies are “good” spies, though, since their goal is to help a church face reality and move toward health.
Numerous spies have written us reports for more than a decade. Below are some of the most common findings they have sent us.
To be fair, the churches that invite us to work with them know they need help, so these findings should not be entirely surprising. What concerns me is the number of churches that have not yet recognized these findings characterize them too:
Some of the people who sit before the pastor on Sundays have open, untreated wounds on their souls.
The church can really help them through today’s ministries. Or it can damage them to the point that they will never recover.
Your work is so critical, church leaders.
If you are the pastor, your sermon can make a world of difference. If you are worship leader, the choices of hymns and choruses and Scriptures, and the manner in which they are conducted, can be a balm to those in great pain. If you teach a Sunday school class, ask the Father to go far beyond the lesson you will be commenting on and do something miraculous in the hearts and souls of all who will sit before you.
The majority of Christendom has no idea what it’s like to be a pastor. Pastors think a lot about the words they use, and about the words they hope others will use.
I figure David Letterman would never get around to this, so I’ve developed the list. In case you’ve ever wondered, here are some of the words pastors dream about hearing.
Some of them are tongue-in-cheek; others are straight from the heart. I’m sure you can improve the list (Post yours below).
10. “Last week, we read that the pastor who preaches and teaches is worthy of double honor, so we’re doubling your salary.”
There is a counterintuitive marketing concept that we, as pastors, should spend some time contemplating: “If you try to reach everyone, you’ll reach no one.”
When you are promoting an event or sermon series, who is your target audience? Are you focused on a 35-year-old man who works in construction and has two kids, or are you focused on all men who might possibly see your sign or know someone who does?
When you focus your advertising (announcement) on a particular target audience instead of trying to reach everyone possible, you create energy and momentum.
As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones.
My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure, I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more.
Here are seven questions I ask myself based off events and programs I didn’t think all the way through:
I’ve worked for bullies that demanded trust. I’ve worked for weaklings that demanded trust. I’ve worked for very few that legitimately worked to build my trust in them.
Trust, like loyalty, is a two-way street that instead often looks like people driving three cars down the wrong lane, headed in the entirely wrong direction. As a leader, one has to think of trust as something built, not won in the lottery. It’s done in so many different ways.
1. Show people that you care about them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Is that saying cliche? Yes. Is that saying correct? Yes.
Hello. How are you? What’s up? Hey.
All of us greet differently. There is no right or wrong.
These are a few of my thoughts on greetings that might create a few laughs. Most of these are related to greetings within the office, but a few are appropriate anywhere.
Enjoy these and add more below in the comments section!
The longer I run the race of ministry, the more I realize it is prayer that keeps me going and produces results that last. It's not uncommon that as a young leader, I “ran” more than prayed. As I’ve matured, my understanding and practice of prayer has strengthened.
I have also learned, however, that my prayers are not enough. I need others to pray for me. In fact, I believe this so strongly that I think it’s dangerous to lead in a church without having specific people pray for you with great passion and consistency.
For the past 12 years, I’ve had seven prayer partners—one for each day of the week. Many wonderful people pray for me at 12Stone Church, but these warriors are the ones I count on, each on their day. When I was at Skyline Church, I had 30 prayer partners, one for each day of the month.
Over the last several years, we’ve been collecting data from the churches with which we consult. One of the key questions we were interested in had to do with serving.
We wanted to find out how many people are volunteering in one of the church’s ministries, either inside or outside the walls of the church. Here’s what we’ve found:
The average church engages four to five people out of 10 in some sort of serving role. For the purposes of this research, we assumed kids aren’t serving, and therefore they aren’t included in the percentage. However, there are a few churches that are creating serving opportunities for older children as well.
It’s easy to tell whether a person is giving an excuse. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or a leader, we’ve all heard excuses from other people that don’t quite add up.
While determining the validity of someone else’s excuse is fairly black and white, it’s not so easy when it comes to the excuses we give ourselves. Oftentimes we give ourselves a lot more slack with our own excuses. It’s taken me years to realize that the excuses I often find “acceptable” can possibly destroy the influence, leadership potential and personal growth I want to accomplish.
Here are three of the most common acceptable excuses I’ve found myself giving over the past few years. But I have recently realized the danger of using them:
Pastors, nowhere in Ephesians 6 are we given any protection for our backsides! I think there’s a good reason for that—we aren’t given permission to retreat.
So the answer to "When should a godly leader retreat?" is "Never!"
Understand, I’m not talking about repentance, a changing of the mind or an encounter of real truth, where we turn from wrong beliefs and actions. I’m talking about turning back from the God path.
Whether you recognize Sam Hinn’s name or know nothing about the ministry of Benny Hinn’s younger brother, there’s an important issue in the body of Christ that needs to be addressed in light of Sam’s “re-ordination” on Sunday night in Orlando, Fla., only eight months after he stepped down from the pulpit due to a serious moral indiscretion.
This and other recent instances—both in Orlando and around the nation—prove that we, as the church, still struggle with how to restore fallen leaders.
Ministry is too important to be done haphazardly. How we’re leading in the core of our churches has to do with life-changing, eternity-consequential decisions. Therefore, we need to think through what ministry is all about. Sometimes we are more strategic about our grocery lists than our approach to ministry.
"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but many.
Many times, as leaders, we are blindfolded by the experience we have gained over the years. We assume everyone knows what we know, but we forget what we once didn’t know.
I feel what I’m writing is elementary in the field of leadership. But what is elementary to one is high school or even college to others.
I’m not at all saying you can stop learning. That’s a dangerous thing for a leader to ever do. I’m saying to be conscious of the fact that if you are a leader, chances are you’ve learned a few things along the way to getting where you are today.
This is not a good story, and I apologize in advance.
In between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked the call-in desk for the Seaboard Railroad ticket office in Birmingham. Located downtown on 20th Street South, this was an attractive office with pleasant people.
The year was 1960 and during the heyday of Jim Crow laws. The police commissioner in the city was named Bull Connor, a man destined to make headlines a couple of years later when he turned the fire hoses on blacks (and maybe a few whites; I’m not sure) protesting the harsh laws and customs in our city.
There is a lot of talk about discipleship these days—and it is about time. Jesus seemed to think discipleship was a big deal, putting it as the heart—and the verb—of the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations." Yet it seems discipleship has fallen on hard times in many churches in the West—for example, English-speaking places like the U.S., Canada, Australia and England, where there are Christians who are just not as desperate and committed as their sisters and brothers in the Two-Thirds World.
I would go so far as to say that our discipleship model is broken. I would like to suggest some areas where we are broken and hopefully provide some solutions about how to fix them.
Let me state the obvious: Pastors are human. That means they have preferences, likes and dislikes. So I did an unscientific Twitter poll to find out what pastors really don’t like about their job.
By the way, one pastor cautioned me about calling their ministries “jobs.” I understand, but it’s hard to fit “God-called vocation and ministry” into a 140-character Twitter question.
I was surprised at the variety of responses. Pastors are certainly not monolithic. No one response was greater than 20 percent of the total. And I was surprised at some potential responses that did not show up.
This might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint-by-numbers kit, and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet.
That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper, and it contained intricate detail.
I painted for weeks and then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish.
Here’s what I noticed: I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership, it rings true.
When pastors Paul and Andi Andrew made the decision to move with their kids from Sydney to New York City to plant Liberty Church, they only knew two people in the city.
That was 2010, and just a few short years later, what started as a dream has flourished into a dynamic, growing community that is making a difference in NYC and beyond. Here are 10 lessons they learned in urban church planting while starting Liberty Church in New York City.
10 Lessons in Urban Church Planting
1. Churn. Although people tell you to expect turnover as a church plant, we discovered in New York City that it was multiplied, since millions of people move to the city just for a season of their lives. It was our biggest surprise, and as many as 30 percent of our core members left last year not because they didn’t love Liberty Church but because they were moving to another city.
The local church should be a Holy Spirit training outpost for equipping God’s people to be kingdom warriors of love and servanthood on earth and to destroy the works of darkness. Instead, the local church is often operating more like a cruise ship instead of a battleship designed to equip an army.
I first met pastor Fred Hartley about five years ago when I was invited to be on a city transformation leadership team in Atlanta. Fred pastors a midsize congregation in a suburb of Atlanta and is also the founder of the College of Prayer, an international equipping ministry. Fred has written several books on prayer. He knew little about my work, but as we began getting to know one another, he took more of an interest in what I did. I shared a few of my books with him, but it was almost two years before Fred caught what I was doing and how it could impact his own local congregation. He wrote me this letter:
The kind of preaching that changes lives is from the heart to the heart, not from the head to the head. Lives are changed as we speak from our deepest pain and suffering.
Socrates was the first to explain communication in three dimensions. He talked about ethos as the speaker’s character, pathos as the speaker’s compassion, and logos as the speaker’s content. We tend to think most about the content of a sermon, but the people to whom we are speaking perceive all three, and ethos is really the most vital of all three dimensions.
Laura Ortberg Turner, daughter of John and Nancy Ortberg, has some great thoughts on what it means to be (but not really be) known as a “pastor’s kid.” One takeaway is the framework she felt her parents placed her and her siblings into. Turner writes:
“Had we not gotten freedom from our parents to be the people we were—to grow and learn for ourselves and even occasionally embarrass our parents, as good children do (a famed family incident at a church in Southern California that involves my then-5-year-old brother lying on his back, thrusting his pelvis to a children’s worship song called ‘Jumping Bean,’ comes to mind)—we would likely have ended up feeling like our only two possibilities in life were becoming the mantle-bearer or the rebel.”
Beginning this fall, a major television network will begin airing a new reality show called Preachers of L.A. Before you continue reading this article, please view this trailer.
Though every ounce of my being is tempted to respond in condemning judgmentalism, I will obey God’s command and judge not.
As with everything else, Christianity has changed in this new millennium. The question we must all ask is, Is it for the better or for the worse? Never before has the church earned such a poor reputation as we have in this generation. It appears as if the current church in America has two gods—the god of attendance and the god of money. We are seen as superficial, arrogant, self-serving, unloving and unholy.
To say that issues surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movement are sensitive to navigate would be a gross understatement. Here are three mistakes that are often made in our ministries:
1. People make “gay” jokes. Statements like, “That’s gay,” or, “What are you, gay?” are exactly the types of things that will repel someone who needs to have a safe place to share. This will alienate kids and make you completely unsafe to talk to. We come across as arrogant and condemning. Huge mistake.
George Barna reveal in a survey in 2009 that only 19 percent of Christians hold a biblical worldview and that less than 4 percent of those in their 20s hold a biblical worldview. Are we losing the culture battle? Can the church any longer impact the culture today, given such statistics that reveal the state of the church?
The church is often referred to as an institution instead of a people who love and serve society for the purpose of influencing culture. We’ve reduced the church to a place where we go on Sunday instead of a people that is the church spread throughout the marketplace daily. People either worship in spirit and truth, or they settle for religious ritual on the church mountain.
“The poor will be with you always,” Jesus said, but I’m sure He could have added, "The stupid vision killers will pursue you always.”
Acknowledge But Don’t React
As much as we would love to send to some of these to Gitmo for vision espionage, we simply don’t have that authority … sadly. But if we give their voice weight, they will keep looking for opportunities to complain.
Naysayers and complainers don’t have a desire to help in what they say. They are looking for a platform that will hear them and respond. It makes them feel empowered.
Here is an example of a common question I receive:
My church is not growing. People come, but they do not stay. We’ve analyzed all the majors and feel we are doing what we should, but they do not stay. Any thoughts, please?
I receive something similar almost weekly. I wish I had answers every time. I don’t. Most of the time, I know they can’t afford a consultant (or don’t think they can but should consider the investment), so I try to give them a few suggestions, in the limited time I have, to think through their issues.
As a pastor, you have a lot of responsibilities. When your task list grows, it’s easy to overlook the need to invest in your staff. However, one of the most important parts of leadership development is helping others understand their gifts.
At some point, most of us worked for or learned from a leader who understood this responsibility. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Even if we didn’t have that help, we all understand the value of it and why we should invest in our people this way.
So for all you leaders, here are three ideas for helping the people you lead develop their gifts:
After the past few years of observing the worship element of our kids’ experiences, I’ve discovered three key skills that distinguish a worship leader from a worship singer. The former leads kids to engage in a worship song while the latter holds a microphone and sings. There’s a big difference between the two.
Skill No. 1: The Art of Prompting
Storytelling and worship leading share this tool in common. Yet it’s assumed in storytelling and taken for granted in worship leading. Providing prompts seems intuitive when teaching kids.