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The best church leaders don’t simply spend time learning new stuff about the bible, praying 24-7, discovering new management techniques or understanding organizational theory. They spend time on becoming better at the art of leading through relationships. After all relationships are both the glue and the grease that make work, happen.

And before you blow this post off and chalk it up to a bunch of business stuff being applied to church world…think again…this is all rooted in the Bible.

Emotionally Intelligent leaders are great at building effective interpersonal relationships with their team. Which is essentially the combination of being simultaneously self-aware and others focused.

But what are some things that these leaders actually do differently?

The Art of Timing

It’s a gift to say the right thing at the right time. The Bible puts it this way in Proverbs 15:23 “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!”

Emotionally intelligent leaders are disciplined with their words and craft their words intentionally. Not in a manipulative manner but in a way that serves people well. They don’t always say everything they see or feel for that matter. They are wise about giving people what they can handle or need at the time to help them move in the right direction.

Others Focused

Emotionally intelligent leaders are others focused. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul linked spiritual maturity to living an others-oriented life. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

While Paul put it this way in Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t focus on themselves they focus on the team, because they know that the team out performs the individual every time.

Self-Awareness

The best leaders I’ve ever been around are quick to take personal responsibility when things go wrong. Instead of looking outward and shifting blame they choose to shoulder the blame themselves. This takes a tremendous amount of confidence and self-awareness. And of course, the enemy of self-awareness is self-deception. Self-deception can be a dangerous thing. It can make you believe more or less about yourself than you should. You can even fool yourself into thinking more or less about others than you should. Emotionally intelligent leaders are sober minded, they know who they are, and they know who they’re not, and they do what’s best for the team. They are quick to take personal ownership when things go south and give out praise when things go well.

Jeremiah 17-9-10 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”

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Each month I curate the top 10 most popular blog posts I’ve shared recently. These are the articles that got had the greatest engagement in the past month. They were the most visited, shared, helpful or disagreed with. At any rate, thanks for staying in contact with me through engaging in the content on this site, I hope it’s been helpful to you! In case you missed any of them here they are all in one nice tidy place for you!

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

I wrote this post 5 years ago. It came out of a conversation that I had with a Leadership Coaching Group I was facilitating for Church Staff and it’s remained a fan favorite.

How Many People should your Church have on Staff?

It’s a big question that most churches are asking. The answer may surprise you.

10 Principles to Building a Great Guest Experience at your Church

Do you know how to build a great guest experience at your church? Are you starting with the right building blocks? This top 10 list has been built from my experience of working with churches across the country the past couple of years with the Unstuck Group.

What Do I Do First?

If you are leading in a local church setting, chances are there are moments when you feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that are screaming for your time and attention. There are staff to lead, volunteers to recruit and develop, a budget to manage, mission trips to plan, a building to take care of, people who are in crisis that need counseling, prayer and care, a board to meet with, people to get into groups and disciple, kids and students to invest in, and oh yea there is this thing called weekend worship service that comes every 7 days that you need to prepare an awesome message for all while being awesome at everything else. The list literally goes on and on. Most people in ministry that I talk to express that they feel like their job is never done. So, with so much screaming at you to get done, how do you know what to do first?

The Difference between a Shepherd and a Leader

I love helping churches and leaders get unstuck and make vision real. In fact out of all the stuff I get to do with churches and leaders one of the things I enjoy the most is Leadership Coaching. Recently I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day coaching a group of Pastors and Church Leaders from Australia (unfortunately their cool accent didn’t rub off). One of the topics we spent time digging into was the difference between shepherding and leading in relation to why some churches are stuck while others move forward. Here are couple of thoughts from the conversation.

What do you do when you Don’t Agree with your Pastor?

f you work on staff at a church, chances are at some point you’re going to disagree with your pastor. That’s okay, you’re human, it would be naive to think you’re always going to agree with your pastor. But what you do with that disagreement is where things can get really messy. Messy for you, and messy for the church.

8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering. This is a critical issue for churches to figure out. The reason why this has to be a front-burner issue is because at the heart of it, volunteering is an essential component of the discipleship process in someone’s life. Plainly put, volunteering is discipleship. Understanding that, here are 8 reasons people aren’t volunteering in your church…and subsequently aren’t growing in their relationship with God.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

How Insider Language is Keeping Outsiders Away from Jesus

The most obvious way to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.” And it’s important because words build worlds. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches, here are 3 big ones…obviously there are more (in fact I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve seen in churches…leave a comment).

What is a Campus Pastor?

A lot of churches are still trying to get their hands around this new role in the modern church. This post will help.

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Some churches and church leaders I’ve met are addicted to new. I get it, I like new stuff too. In fact, I can get bored quick when it comes to maintenance and routine. Like a lot of church leaders, I need fresh new challenges routinely.

New can be fun, it can be catalytic to momentum and it can attract and involve new people. New can be great! But pacing with new stuff matters…like, a lot.

Starting a new multisite campus, launching a new worship service time, beginning a new ministry approach, or hiring a new staff member may be the next right thing for your church, but then again it may be the worst thing you could do.

Don’t Reach to Grow…Reach because you’re Growing

Overreaching and overextending yourself past your capacity to keep up with your reach will lead to decline and death not growth and life. When beginning something new be sure to be sober minded about overreaching past your financial, staff, volunteer, facility or a number of other limiting factors.

The Best Reason to do something New is because you Have To

If you don’t’ get anything else from this post…make sure you write that thought down and give it some serious thought. The best reason to start a new worship service is because you are growing, and you need to create more space. The best reason to hire more staff is because you have to in order to keep up with growth. The best reason to start a new multisite campus is to respond to demand and reach that community.

Everything you Start you have to Sustain

While starting new stuff may be fun, keeping that new stuff going can be a drag. Remember everything new that you start you need to keep in motion. It’s going to take time, money, volunteers, and other resources that will have to be diverted from other things you already have going on.

Starting New Stuff won’t cover up a Fatal Flaw for long

Churches are notorious for starting a myriad of new things when the momentum of the church begins to wane. It’s a desperate attempt to prop things up and keep things moving in the right direction and growing. While that may mask a loss of momentum for a little while it won’t address the fatal flaws of why things are slowing down. In fact it will make things worse because it will cause you to overextend yourself instead of deal with root issues.

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If you are leading in a local church setting, chances are there are moments when you feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that are screaming for your time and attention.

There are staff to lead, volunteers to recruit and develop, a budget to manage, mission trips to plan, a building to take care of, people who are in crisis that need counseling, prayer and care, a board to meet with, people to get into groups and disciple, kids and students to invest in, and oh yea there is this thing called weekend worship service that comes every 7 days that you need to prepare an awesome message for all while being awesome at everything else. The list literally goes on and on. Most people in ministry that I talk to express that they feel like their job is never done.

So, with some much screaming at you to get done, how do you know what to do first?

What’s the worst thing that would happen if it didn’t get done?

I mean really. What would happen if you decided that you simply weren’t going to give attention to that thing that’s screaming at you for attention? What if you just said, “No, I’m not going to do that right now?”

Are you doing something that someone else could or should be doing?

Is it possible that everything is coming back to you to do because you’ve unknowingly adopted some poor behaviors? Are you pushing decisions down (letting others make decisions) or pulling decisions up (taking away decision making responsibility from others). Are you delegating tasks to others and empowering them to make their own decisions within the framework of the direction your moving and the values of the team?

Realize you can’t do everything at once

This may sound elementary, but you’ve got to come to the realization that you simply can’t do everything. You can’t be everything to everyone. You aren’t Jesus. Jesus is Jesus. Learn to evaluate the highest priority problem and then come up with a plan to solve it. Involve others in the solution and provide direction to them. Then move on to the next problem and repeat. While doing this you can learn to solve multiple problems at the same time through teams of other people all while seeing the big picture.

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My wife recently hosted a baby shower for some friends of ours that ended up upsetting our youngest son. Wyatt is 5 years old, he’s the youngest of 4, and has 2 older sisters who dote all over him. He was really excited about the baby shower. Until he discovered about half way into it that he wasn’t going to be able to bring the baby upstairs and give the baby its first bath.

He mistakenly thought that a baby shower was a party to celebrate giving a new baby their first bath. Cute, funny, and at the same time I can see how the mind of a 5-year-old can come to that confusing conclusion.

What’s not so cute or funny is that churches confuse people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and His Church all the time by the words and language that they use. What’s really sad is that the point of this whole thing is to make the Gospel clear not confusing.

The most obvious way to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.” And it’s important because words build worlds. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches, here are 3 big ones…obviously there are more (in fact I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’ve seen in churches…leave a comment).

Preaching

Preaching as though everyone already knows Jesus and comes to the room with basic Bible knowledge. They don’t. Unless you’re just doing church for church people (which isn’t really Church). Most people don’t even know the books of the bible or what the big numbers and little numbers mean.

Branding

Coming up with “cool names and brands” for ministries that mean nothing to people outside the church. You can find a list of real life funny but sad examples if you follow this link.

Announcements

Stuff like mentioning people from stage by name without explaining who they are. For instance, I’ve been to a church where an announcement was made to go see “Jim” to join a small group. I’m thinking to myself if I don’t know Jesus and am unfamiliar with church world…who’s Jim, how do I find him…and what the heck is a small group?

Two big principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you choose to use in your church are: clear always trumps cute or cool and you’re always better off just calling things what they are.

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There are a lot of reasons that I love working at Sun Valley Community Church. It’s the best staff culture I’ve ever experienced on a church staff team, every week there are incredible stories of life change, over the past 6 years we’ve opened 4 new locations and there have literally been 1,000’s of people baptized. It’s a really special place to be a part of.

It’s also a place that values and takes care of the staff team. In fact, after 7 years, full-time Director level staff (and up) qualify for a paid sabbatical. It’s a great way to invest in, value, reward, and incentivize longevity with our team. Each person builds a written plan and budget that focus on three key areas that are submitted for approval.

Professional Development

Key Question: What are you going to do to invest in your career?
What skills, training, or development do you need in order to get better at your craft? Is there a class you need to take, a church or organization you need to visit to learn from, or some kind of process certification you need to complete that will resource you to improve your professional capacity?

Personal Development

Key Question: What are you going to do to invest in yourself?
What about you? It’s a question most people in ministry rarely ask. Ministry Staff Members typically spend the majority of their time and energy serving other people. What do you need to do for you that brings you energy? I don’t mean just sitting on the couch vegging out and watching Netflix but doing something that fills you up.

Family Development

Key Question: What are you going to do to invest in your family?
Why don’t you ditch the kids over sabbatical and go do something with just you and your spouse? But then again, plan something with just the kids too, you’ve got the time. What kind of experiences and memories do you want to build with your family?

Over the summer I’ve got a plan to do all three of these things, and I’m grateful to serve at a church that values their staff in this way. So, at the risk of not being very consistent here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real or on social media you’re going to notice that I’ll be around a lot less this summer on these digital platforms. So, I’ll see you after sabbatical!

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Each month I curate the top 10 most popular blog posts I’ve shared recently. These are the articles that got had the greatest engagement in the past month. They were the most visited, shared, helpful or disagreed with. At any rate, thanks for staying in contact with me through engaging in the content on this site, I hope it’s been helpful to you! In case you missed any of them here they are all in one nice tidy place for you!

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

I wrote this post 5 years ago. It came out of a conversation that I had with a Leadership Coaching Group I was facilitating for Church Staff and it’s remained a fan favorite.

How Many People should your Church have on Staff?

It’s a big question that most churches are asking. The answer may surprise you.

18 Churchy Things the Class of 2018 Won’t Get

A friend of mine at the Unstuck Group wrote this post, and it’s great! This spring’s high school graduates were born in the year 2000. Here are some churchy things for which they have little to no context for…

What is a Campus Pastor?

A lot of churches are still trying to get their hands around this new role in the modern church. This post will help.

5 Ways Successful Church Leaders Think Differently 

Successful church leaders naturally think differently than the majority of church leaders. It’s one of the things that set them apart. The good news is you can learn to think just like them.

20 Helpful Metrics for Measuring Church Health

You can actually measure church health and this report will help you!

The Rules of Innovation

Innovation doesn’t just happen. To much structure will kill it…but surprisingly too much freedom will to! This post will help your church become more innovative.

Why Following Jesus is all Backwards 

Following Jesus is weird. It doesn’t make sense. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you or selling something.

The Difference between a Shepherd and a Leader

I love helping churches and leaders get unstuck and make vision real. In fact out of all the stuff I get to do with churches and leaders one of the things I enjoy the most is Leadership Coaching. Recently I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day coaching a group of Pastors and Church Leaders from Australia (unfortunately their cool accent didn’t rub off). One of the topics we spent time digging into was the difference between shepherding and leading in relation to why some churches are stuck while others move forward. Here are couple of thoughts from the conversation.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

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If you’ve ever been a part of a fast-growing church, you know what chaos feels like. New people are showing up every week and space can quickly become an issue. You’re making adjustments on the fly, sometimes weekly. Finding room for kids, adding new worship service times, figuring out where you’re going to park everyone, on-boarding new staff members…searching for new staff members. It can feel a bit hectic to put it mildly. It’s exciting, it’s fun, but sometimes for those people who are strategy and structure oriented it can feel a bit out of control.

In seasons like these eventually someone comes along and says something like, “We can’t keep operating like we’ve been operating. It’s time to change and take a more strategic approach.” It’s usually someone from the Board, the Pastor, or a trusted senior level Staff Member. But eventually someone will say something like; “We need to stop living on momentum and start building a strategy to get us to the future.”

This is where things can go south, quick. While various strategies, structures, systems, and processes can be helpful; they’re not the goal, they’re not the reason. Here’s a quick refresher…

Mission answers the question: “Why do we exist?”
Vision answers the question: “Where are we going?”
Strategy answers the question: “How are we going to get there?”

The reason (mission) why Jesus put the Church on the planet is to reach people (all people) with the Gospel.

I appreciate strategically minded people in the Church, heck, I am one. And I think the Church is at a deficit when it comes to these kinds of people. But I’ve also seen people like me in the name of strategy and structure squelch growth and results instead of fueling them.

Mike Tyson, who was a great boxer (or puncher) in his day and among other things bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off in the ring, said that, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That statement is a spin-off of an old military principle that states. “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

In other words, people who win chase results more than they chase strategy. That’s not to say that they’re not strategic, it’s just that they are willing to adapt their strategy to fit the current situation.

Is your church winning? Are you experiencing great results? If not, it may be time to adapt your strategy. If you need help I’d recommend connecting with the Unstuck Group. There’s not a better Church Consulting Firm you could employ to help you get from where you are to where Jesus wants you to be. It’s what we do.

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The last few years at the Unstuck Group we’ve served 100’s of churches and over that time we’ve been tracking the “Core Issues” that emerge during strategic planning—the things teams identify as the reasons they felt stuck.

There were 12 common challenges that kept coming up over and over again—things like finding the best ways to close the “back door,”  building a plan to develop more leadersincreasing volunteer engagementstaffing for growth, etc.

We started thinking, “We need to create something to equip more church leaders to win in these areas.”

So, we’ve been writing and shooting video and creating an online space for church leaders to learn and process next steps around those core issues together.

We’re calling it the Leading an Unstuck Church Course, and it’s available now!

This new resource, the Leading an Unstuck Church Course, challenges you with lessons, exercises and discussion that will grow your ability to lead an unstuck church. Whether you lead a large church, a small church or somewhere in between, my friend Tony Morgan equips you with biblical wisdom and practical know-how to lead your church towards sustained health.

Through this course you will gain the ability to help your church:
  • Find clarity around mission, vision, values and strategy
  • Discover practical ways to enhance the weekend services
  • Build a plan to develop more leaders
  • Learn to build teams & increase volunteer engagement
  • Learn how to staff for growth
  • Improve communications both internally and externally
  • Learn how to establish healthier finances
  • And more

That’s just a sample. Learn about all 12 lessons and enroll by clicking this link. The Leading an Unstuck Church Course will only be open for enrollment for a few weeks, since we want to keep the group small so we can engage personally and facilitate a strong community. We hope to see you there!

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One of the best ways to learn as a church leader is to get outside of the “church-world” and learn from other industries. That kind of exposure challenges your thinking in new ways. It exposes you to different problems that you aren’t facing as well as new solutions that churches aren’t even thinking about.

The other day I had the opportunity to learn from a friend of mine who works in a different industry than the church I serve in. He works for a fast growing, global, world class company that’s known for innovation.

As I listened to him describe his company’s approach to innovation there we some core concepts that were counter intuitive that really stood out to me.

First…Master the Standard

You don’t have the right to innovate until you’ve mastered the existing standard, because otherwise you degrade the standard. In order to innovate you have to begin with a baseline standard. That starting point allows you to begin to improve things, be creative and innovate. In a church you may have a standard way of doing things like checking in kids, new families, or following up on guests. You may have standard expectations in regard to the quality of the worship band, lighting, sound or even the percentage of attenders in a group or engaged in a volunteer team. Innovation in those instances would mean mastering the standard, whatever that is, and then trying new things to improve upon it.

Hyper Standardization AND a Free for All are both Bad for Innovation

Both over standardization and a wild west, no holds barred approach squelch innovation. Innovation for the sake of innovation is a waste of time. There’s plenty of opportunity to innovate against a problem. The best innovations are always for the sake of guests or customers and make things simpler not more complicated.

How it Really Works: 

1. Communicate BEFORE you Innovate
Before you start improving upon the standard always communicate up to your direct report. No boss likes to be surprised and you may find that your boss has different priorities for your time than what you want to innovate.

2. Define the Period of Time that you’ll Run the Test
Be clear about how long you’re going to test this new innovative idea as well as the potential scope of impact.

3. Evaluate Real Results
Conduct an autopsy on the test you ran. What were the net results? Look at both the data and the anecdotes. If it’s not significantly better than the standard, then ditch the idea…it’s not worth chasing.

4. Preserve what Worked and Pivot away from what didn’t
Simply put, have the courage to turn away from ideas that didn’t work, even if you liked the idea, even if it was a good idea. If it didn’t work, then don’t waste your time working it. Preserve what did work significantly better and either work to implement it everywhere or continue to improve upon it.

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