There was a time when I would have been jealous for leadership; today, I find it sobering. I have passed the point of aspiring to leadership. It is a privilege to be a leader, but the price is great.
A leader has to watch every word he or she says and quickly learns that you can’t go through life without a few critics, some well deserved. Occasionally, leaders have a rough time knowing who’s a genuine friend, and there are some serious time limitations on pursuing healthy relationships. There’s pressure on friends and family, and at times most leaders, I suspect, ask, “Who needs all this?”
On the other hand, everything I’ve been privileged to be a part of has been the result of a choice to respond to God’s call to leadership. So, I’m not whining about the pressure.
This blog was inspired by something Bishop Manny Carlos said about leadership development during our recent Every Nation Asia Leadership Team meeting.
Pastors and missionaries are leaders, or at least they are supposed to be. Some are good leaders. Others are not. Some have intentionally upgraded their leadership skills. Others have not.
It is one thing to be an effective minister; it is another thing entirely to be an effective leader.
A person who is an effective pastor or missionary will eventually attract a crowd that will become an organization that will require leadership skills. If we grow in ministry skills, but fail to develop leadership skills, we will create chaos and unwittingly destroy what we build.
Here are three leadership skills that pastors and ministers must develop and constantly upgrade:
On my recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, over dinner we were blessed to have a friendly waiter named Everest. It’s not very often that you meet a man named Everest; he is actually my first.
With a name like Everest, I was reminded of another man I met at the wedding I attended recently—his name is Gideon Lasco, a 26-year-old mountaineer who climbed Mt. Apo (highest peak in the Philippines) when he was 19.
It was obvious from his name that he had a Christian background. As it turns out, he is a pastor’s son. Gideon is also a prolific blogger in his highly visited site pinoymountaineer.com. My brief conversation with this young man was pretty insightful.
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.— Romans 12:2
Some years ago a magazine pictured a man staring out of a window; the caption read: "Why does this company pay this man $100,000 to look out a window?" The answer: Because the lifeblood of any organization lies in ideas and creative thinking. Thinking is powerful. Flying a plane, air conditioning, cell phones, vaccines, the World Wide Web--without thinking, these would have been impossible. Everything begins with a simple thought.
Ideas are a great moving force of history. We are never free to do what we cannot conceive. Having a godly mind enlarges our thinking capacity. A leader's thinking must be shaped by the following:
Vision: What is our dream? Carl Sandburg was right: "Nothing happens unless it is first a dream." Vision is a process of the mind--it's mental, not visual. Vision is seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought. What is needed to build a pyramid? One person who can think and ten thousand people who can grunt.
Values: What is important? Values have to do with how we treat people, how we do our work, what is vital to us. Values are the standards, the principles, and the code of conduct that characterize the organization. Values aren't dreamt; they already exist. Leaders shape and form the organization's values. Some universities decide to pour sidewalks after students have first worn a path. Where are the well-worn paths--the actions, the beliefs, the attitudes--that matter most to you? Those are your values.
Venture: What are we willing to risk? Organizations that make a difference are willing to think outside the box. For example, a company that was in the well-digging business began to think in terms of efficient and effective means of making holes, and they soon discovered that lasers dug holes better than augers. They achieved the same goal but accomplished it more efficiently.
Vehicle: What will get us there? How can we accomplish our desired outcome? A dream without a strategy is merely wishful thinking, but with a strategy it becomes powerful thinking.
Victory: What will the celebration be like? A leader thinks like a champion. The end result is to move forward, to accomplish goals, to be God's faithful servant, to celebrate being a part of God's kingdom.
Wake up and start thinking. Take off your nightcap and put on your thinking cap. Ask God to continually renew your mind.
You and I were made for a great adventure—it’s why we like movies. Movies have a story to them, an adventure to follow through. It’s also why we like shows like “Star Trek.” We want to “boldly go where no man has gone before."
That’s no accident. God made us to long for adventure—his adventure. God calls all believers to join him in a rescue mission, “to seek and save the lost” (see Luke 19:10) and complete the Great Commission.
Not only has God created us for this mission; he also wants us to go on the adventure together. God’s agent for completing his mission is the church. Churches start churches. The Bible says, “[God’s] intent was that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known …” (Eph. 3:10). God has chosen the church—not governments or businesses—to be his agent to complete the mission.
I’ve experienced failures. I’ve watched others fail. I’m guessing you’ve seen plenty as well. This morning I tried to think through some common reasons why failure happens. I’m looking forward to some healthy conversation on this one.
1.It’s not your passion. If it doesn’t make your heart beat fast or cause your mind to race when you’re trying to sleep, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
2. You don’t have a plan. You need a vision, and you need to identify specific steps to make that vision become reality. That includes a financial plan. (I happen to believe you need direction from God on this.)
We recently had the “Bennett Boys” over while their parents David and Heather went out for a birthday dinner. We love those boys! Austin is 12, Hudson is 8 and Jackson is 7.
They are great kids. They’re smart, love Jesus, and are lots of fun! One thing they all have in common is energy. Lots of energy!
Our little dog Nacho is a play machine. He never tires of playing with anyone who will give him attention. Well, he met his match that evening. The boys wore that pup out! Nacho slept great that night!
I’m a high-energy and long-endurance guy, but when I see kids play I think, “Wow I’d love some of that energy!” Like the Energizer Bunny! (My favorite one… with Darth Vader!)
The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.— Proverbs 14:8
Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought eccentric because of how extensively he planned his plays in advance of each game. Most coaches would wait to see how the game unfolded, then respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to respond to him. Walsh won several Super Bowls with his "eccentric" proactive approach. He was a coach who looked into the future.
Looking ahead is the process of creating the future before it happens. People who learn to do it "understand where they are going." Like Bill Walsh, it involves deciding your actions in advance so that your life will respond to you. What are the benefits of such a proactive pursuit?
Looking ahead gives direction. It's like using a highlighter on a roadmap to indicate where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. The highlighted roadmap not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going.
Looking ahead helps us to create rather than react. With each step along our journey, we are faced with a choice either to create or to react. Many people spend their entire days reacting. Like goalies in hockey, with pucks flying at us all day, we react. We react to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges, and obstacles. A better way involves making choices and following plans.
Looking ahead saves time. "One hour of planning saves three hours of execution." Planning yields a savings return. We only have twenty-four hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If we don't use them wisely by looking ahead, we will forever forfeit those gifts.
Looking ahead reduces crisis. Our daily lives have two controlling influences: plans and pressures. When we look ahead and choose to plan, we take charge and control of our days. If we fail to look ahead, we will spend our days in crisis mode. We will fall into a trap of panic planning--planning on the fly with no time to effectively map out a strategy.
Looking ahead maximizes energy. Failing to look ahead, we dissipate our energy on less important matters, improper agendas, and lost crusades. We waste our time on the trivial many. But preparation often energizes us!
Be wise. Look ahead. It's eccentric but well worth the effort.
On my last day in Ko Olina, Hawaii, I was reminded of a discussion we had two weeks ago in Manila about burdens. Here is an expanded version of what I shared.
1. Distinguish between a load and a burden. There is a difference between a load and a burden. The Bible tells us to carry our own load (Gal. 6:5) but it also tells us to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Loads are regular occurrences we are designed to carry. Examples of these are: caring for our love ones, work entrusted to us, providing for our families, even connecting with people God wants us to reach.
Burdens on the other hand are those that are beyond our ability to carry. This could be due to something unexpected, unknown or unusual. The first step in turning burdens into spiritual muscles is to correctly identify them. Is it a load or a burden? Once you have identified a burden, it’s time to…
Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew that faith and obedience are the keys to God’s blessing, so she chose to go with God’s destiny for her life
Now, as a pastor, I want God to bless your life. I want him to bless you spiritually. I want him to bless you financially. I want him to bless your career and family and relationships and health. But if you have a plan for your life—I’ll tell you—you’re on your own.
God is not going to bless your plan. God did not put you on Earth to live for yourself. He put you on Earth for something much bigger than that. And when you go with his plan for your life, he will bless it.
While reading my Bible recently, I scribbled some notes in my journal. Then I thought that both leaders who read this blog might find these thoughts helpful. So I’m transforming them into this blog, if I can read my own handwriting.
In Deuteronomy 17 God is giving his people guidelines for picking good leaders. Here’s my summary of those guidelines.
1. Calling.“Be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses.” (Verse 15) We should not appoint a person to a leadership position unless and until God appoints and anoints them. In other words, divine calling is essential for good leadership.
The Bible gives us five actions we can take to stop procrastinating:
1. Stop making excuses. “The lazy person claims, 'There's a lion out there! If I go outside, I might be killed!'" (Prov. 22:13, NLT). What have you been saying you’re going to do “one of these days”? What do you make excuses about? The number one excuse I hear is, “When things settle down, then I’m going to ...” Things will never settle down. You must make a choice to prioritize what is important.
2. Start today. Not next month, next week, or tomorrow. “Never boast about tomorrow. You don’t know what will happen between now and then” (Prov. 27:1, GNT). None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow.
Despite the tough economy, many of the nation’s largest churches are thriving, with increased offerings and plans to hire more staff, a new survey shows.
Just 3 percent of churches with 2,000 or more attendance surveyed by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank, said they were affected “very negatively” by the economy in recent years. Close to half—47 percent—said they were affected “somewhat negatively,” but one-third said they were not affected at all.
The vast majority—83 percent—of large churches expected to meet their budgets in 2012 or their current fiscal year. A majority of large churches also reported that offerings during worship services were higher last year than in 2011.
We humans are great starters, but often bad finishers. We leave unfinished symphonies, unfinished buildings, unfinished books or unfinished projects. We may not always finish what we start, but God always finishes what he starts.
God doesn’t create a bird and give him half a wing. He didn't create an unfinished flower or an unfinished star. He puts the finishing touches on everything he does, and then he says, “It is good.”
Alan Alda is probably best known for playing Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on the hit television show, M*A*S*H. But for all of the silliness of his character on the show, Mr. Alda once made this quote:
“Be as smart as you can be, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.”
A lot of people do not know the difference between being smart and being wise. You might say that being smart is having a lot of knowledge, but that being wise is knowing how to use that knowledge.
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.— Romans 12:8
Remember the song "This Little Light of Mine?" "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . ." As children, it spoke to the fact that we should show that we love Jesus. As adults, I think it has even more meaning--I think it applies to our spiritual gifts.
It's easy to run away from our spiritual gifts--as the song says, to "hide it under a bushel." It's not necessarily because of the gifts themselves but because of the risk involved. What if I mess up? Will God be disappointed with me? What will people think about me? But, it's not about me. God's Word clearly tells us that God has given us these gifts for a purpose, and if we have them, we need to use them.
I know that one of my spiritual gifts is worship. I have seen God use my music in many ways. But recently, I have realized that although I was using my gift, I still struggled with taking risks. My main instrument is my voice, but I also play the piano. I felt convicted that I needed to add playing the piano to my worship ministry. This move was a risk for me. Why? Because I was afraid of disappointing people. I'm a musician--what would they think if I failed at the piano?
I've had to remind myself that it doesn't matter what people may think but what God thinks. I've found that using my piano skills has added to my ministry, has changed my heart, and hasn't changed what people think of me. Yes, it feels risky--but who wants to live under a bushel, really!
So, if God has blessed you with the ability to encourage others or show kindness, look for the extra step you can take to help someone. If God has blessed you financially, then use your money for his purposes. And if God has given you the gift of leadership, get up, start moving, and find ways that you can lead others. Stop following and start leading. God has gifted you for a reason. Avoid bushels. Trust him to use you.
“So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.” (Heb. 12:1b, GNT)
If we’re going to be used for God’s purposes, we have to focus our lives. The Bible compares life to a marathon, and that means we have to simplify our lives.
The Bible says, “So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us” (Heb. 12:1b, GNT).
This means we should remove anything from our lives that would get in the way and hold us back. If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’ll even keep you so busy doing good things that you won’t have time for the best things.
What was the first thing God said to Jesus in an audible voice? In Mark 1:11 He said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” Jesus didn’t do anything until He first understood this. If Jesus had to know He was in right standing with God without even doing anything yet, then we need to know this.
Let’s break down some words so we can understand them.
With the spate of recent national tragedies in the last few months, all parents are asking, “Is this a safe place for our kids?” That includes churches. As children’s ministry leaders, we’re charged to take our role as both physical and spiritual guardians very seriously, and we should do everything we reasonably can to make our ministry environments a safe place for kids to come. It’s too important to “wing it” or think that the chances of something happening are slim.
Ask yourself and your team: Where are the weak spots in our ministry? Where are the places that need to be shored up to keep kids, families and volunteers secure and safe?
Here’s the challenge. Take action on at least one thing this week. It’s worth the effort and if it’s a visible change, it tells parents, “We care about your child’s safety.”
Recently, we made a slight change. We posted signs on all our doors letting parents know that our ministry areas lock down 15 minutes after the service begins. The doors actually lock and anyone coming in after that time has to be escorted. We also amped up our security check to make sure that every adult walking into our ministry areas had claim tags. Several parents expressed appreciation. Everyone is thinking about security right now.
The challenge for you, however, is to continue to hold the banner of security high. Although everyone is especially raw right now, it will pass. Security won’t be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, unfortunately—but it must be for you. Here are some simple reminders of easy steps to take:
Update or create a ministry policy manual. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Borrow, copy and tweak what you see and put one together. Check out childrensministryonline.com for online examples of policy manuals.
Make it a policy that workers are never alone with a child.Always have at least two adults with any child. This has been my cardinal rule for more than a decade. It protects the church, child and worker. If you have to speak to a child alone, pull him or her aside where you are in eyeshot of at least one other adult. If you need to help a child in the bathroom, be sure there is a set of eyes on you, watching you. Make it a policy that if only one adult shows up to help, the room is closed. This is why we always have three volunteers/staff in a room. If someone needs to leave to get help or supplies, two are left. And if someone doesn’t show up, we still have two and can open the room.
Train your volunteers. Yes, volunteers don’t flock to training meetings. So get creative. Put a quick five-minute training on Vimeo or YouTube. Go over training points in your pre-service meetings. Make sure every volunteer knows the essential policies and safety procedures.
Perform background checks and screen all staff and every volunteer. Regardless of how often someone works, if they have access to kids, they should be screened. If you don’t run background checks, do it—no excuses. If your leadership says no, give them multiple reasons why background checks are a non-negotiable. Several companies offer legitimate checks that take a day to complete for about $7-$12 per person. Make sure the company performs an identity check (be sure to look at the photo identification to ensure they are who they say they are), a criminal background check and a national sex-offenders check. Screen volunteers as well. Ask them to complete an application and call their references. This process will weed out most people who would bring harm.
Update your evacuation, emergency and intruder policies/procedures. Do your volunteers know what to do if something happens? Make sure they do (this is an area we’re working on right now).
Think safety now and always.
Kenny Conley is the Next Generation Pastor at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. A children’s pastor for more than 11 years, Conley has a passion for equipping and encouraging those who pastor and work with kids by sharing ideas, training and giving away “things that have worked for him.”