Our Leadership Principles aren’t inspirational wall hanging. These Principles work hard, just like we do. Amazonians use them, every day, whether they’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates.
Here they are: If you’re short on time, feel free to scroll through and skim the descriptions.
Customer obsession: Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
Ownership: Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
Invent and simplify: Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
Are right, a lot: Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
Learn and be curious: Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
Hire and develop the best: Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
Insist on the highest standards: Leaders have relentlessly high standards—many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
Think big: Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
Bias for action: Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
Frugality: Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.
Earn trust: Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
Dive deep: Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
Have backbone, disagree and commit: Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
Deliver results: Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
Do you have a similar set of values or principles in your church?
Though I wrote No Silver Bullets to help church leaders and pastors develop a discipleship pathway for their church, I had to include a chapter on vision, values, and strategy. If not, then the principles in my book would just end up being the very thing that I wrote against—a silver bullet.
Here’s an excerpt from page 203 about the importance of values for your church:
Though every church shares the same starting point for their vision—the Great Commandment and Commission—the way they approach it is unique. This is because every church has a unique personality—a distinct set of values. As a result, it is precisely the unique values of a church that drive which strategic trade-offs they will make to move toward their vision. This is because the church’s values act as the guardrails, riverbanks, and boundaries for their strategy. In other words, values influence the way the core system of your church runs.
For example, a church that has the value, “Kingdom multiplication,” is going to make the strategic trade-offs to set aside funds for future church planters, send out members to be a part of church-planting teams, and train staff to be future church planters or campus pastors. In contrast, a church that has “the marginalized matter” as one of their values, will make a different set of strategic trade-offs by allocating their funds for community engagement, training up their members to serve the homeless, and possibly having a strategic partnership with their local food bank.
Your values act as the guardrails, riverbanks, and boundaries for your strategy. Click To Tweet
Do you see how important it is to identify your church’s values?
They influence behavior and strategic decision-making. They influence the way your systems operate. They influence the strategic decisions and direction you need to make to get to your vision. They are essentially the personality of your church.
If you want to learn the four types of values in your church and get an audit to help you determine your church’s values, be sure to pick up a copy of No Silver Bullets.
Do you have a similar set of values or principles for your life?
Before Christina and I got married (during pre-marital counseling), we wrote out our values and agreed on the type of marriage we wanted to build. Here are our values:
It is our desire to exemplify and share Christ’s love for us through honoring and loving others with sincerity and devotion
We commit to keeping Christ at the center of our marriage through being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer
We desire for our home to be a blessing and safe haven for all by practicing hospitality and showing others God’s love, compassion, and mercy
We commit to overcoming evil with good
12 years later, these values still stand true and guide the decisions we make and the way we spend our time (the scripture verse is actually engraved on the inside of our wedding bands). In fact, these values are precisely why we started a podcast!
We came to the conclusion that we would never have enough time to welcome into our home everyone we wanted/needed to. So while we’re still doing that, we wanted to also share our lives and Christ’s love with as many people as possible.
So back to you and back to the beginning of this article: Why do you make the decisions you do?
I hope you can take some time this week to dig into this important, yet often neglected question.
As a side note, we’d love to welcome you into our home by listening to one of the episodes of our podcast.
William Wallace, Melinda Gates, Hitler, Elvis Presley, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Bono, and Jeff Bezos.
What’s your off-the-cuff reaction when you hear those names? Do you think of similarities or differences? If you could group them together with one word, which one would you use?
Would the word “leader” come to mind?
Now you may or may not agree on how effective each one of those individuals were (or are) as leaders, but it’s clear that when they acted, people followed. They led and history is different because of it.
When leaders act, people follow. And history is different because of it. Click To Tweet
While William Wallace led with passion to secure Scottish freedom from the English, Melinda Gates has led with compassion to give away more money than most people can even begin to fathom. While Hitler led the Germans with an authoritarian grip, Elvis Presley led with his charisma and rolling tunes.
Haven’t you ever noticed that as quickly as you can name leaders, you are able to name different attributes that make each of them uniquely effective? This is because there is no silver bullet to leadership. There is no common set of characteristics that—when put together—produce the end result of a leader.
There is no common set of characteristics that produce the end result of a leader. Click To Tweet
In fact, just consider the weight of these words from Donald Clifton, the father of Strengths-Based Psychology, the grandfather of Positive Psychology, and the creator of the StrengthsFinder assessment. He was asked, just a few months before his death in 2003, what his greatest discovery was from three decades of leadership research. Here was his response,
A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths—and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders. 
Is every pew sitter a leader?
I guess that depends on your definition of a leader. If you agree with the often-quoted phrase, which I believe is originally attributed to John Maxwell, that “leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less,” then yes. Every pew sitter is a leader.
That stay-at-home mom is a leader because she is influencing her children
That auto-mechanic is a leader because he is influencing the customers he encounters
That single dad is a leader because he is influencing those at work and his children at home
And that 85-year-old retired marine is a leader because he can influence the next generation by discipling them and displaying what a life well lived looks like
When you realize that everyone in your congregation is a leader in their everyday life, it’s not a big leap to also see them as potential leaders in your church. In fact, I would even advocate that seeing them as potential leaders is incredibly biblical and the very first step to live out Ephesians 4:11-16, so that you can equip them for the work of ministry that God has set apart for them to do.
Your role is not to lead and do everything.
Instead, it’s to equip others so that they can lead and do the work of ministry, so that the body of Christ can be built up, so that the church can reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, so that we can grow into maturity, and so that we can go and make disciples of all nations because the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few (Eph 4:11-16; Matt 28:18-20; Matt 9:37-38).
Why isn’t the next step a spiritual gift assessment?
At this point, many church leaders often turn to a spiritual gift assessment so that they can help their congregation figure out how they’re gifted and where they should serve. And to that, I say no! Don’t do it.
I’m not saying no to spiritual gifts, and I’m not saying no to assessments. What I am saying no to is a spiritual gift assessment being the very first step to equip your congregation to lead and serve.
After all, let’s say you complete a spiritual gift assessment and your top three gifts are administration, discernment, and mercy. What in the world are you supposed to do with that? Does your awareness of having these spiritual gifts move you one step closer to serving? To know where to serve, in what capacity to serve, and how to serve effectively? Likely not.
While identifying your spiritual gifts is a beneficial exercise, there isn’t always a direct link from identification to getting plugged into the right ministry area.
So instead of starting with a spiritual gift assessment, what if you started with passion? What if you started by helping your congregants identify which ministry area excited them the most? After placing them in that ministry, you could then match them up with a role where their gifts and talents could be utilized and invested for kingdom work.
Do you see how I’m not ignoring their gifting and talents? But instead reprioritizing the order in which we approach them?
In today’s freelance economy (or gig economy) where our congregants are likely juggling more than one job, in addition to managing extra-curricular activities for children, and fighting traffic like never before, people aren’t going to serve in your church in a long-term role simply because they know their gifts (here’s an easter egg: this is the topic of my next book).
To serve, they need to have a deep conviction for the “why.”
Why does your ministry matter? What difference will they make as a result of serving in your ministry? Why is this more important than Netflix, sports, and other activities that they could be doing?
Uncovering the “why” that drives the heart and soul of your people always begins by uncovering and identifying their area of passion. And there’s no quick way to get there. There’s no silver bullet. You need to simply sit down and listen. So what processes do you have in place to do that? To listen?
To serve effectively, we need to have a deep conviction for the “why.” Click To Tweet
 Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow (New York: Gallup Press), 13
I have routines. You have routines. We all have routines.
Whether it’s the way we start our days, commute to work, go to bed, or anything in between, we all have a certain way of doing things. In fact, a recent book on this topic outlined the fact that geniuses—both ancient and modern—tend to live and die by their routines.
Geniuses—both ancient and modern—tend to live and die by their routines. Click To Tweet
Charles Dickens took three-hour walks every afternoon, Mozart had a regimented daily schedule, and Charles Schultz, creator of nearly eighteen thousand Peanuts comic strips, had a ham sandwich and glass of milk almost every day.
So yes, we all have routines. But why? Is it superstition? Laziness? Why is it that we do things the way that we do?
Routines exist because they are the best, most effective, and efficient way to do the things that need to get done. Well, at least, at one point in time they were the best. At one point in time they were the most efficient. And at one point in time we saw first hand just how effective they were.
The same is true for the church. At one point in time, those programs made sense, but do they still today?
When’s the last time you evaluated them? Or have they just become routine? How much of your church is driven by mottos like, “Well that’s the way we’ve always done it,” or, “Don’t rock the boat,” or “What would dear sister Sally do if you changed things? Her deceased husband basically built this church.”
Change or die.
This is the decision you’ll have to make if you continue to let routines from yesteryear run your church.
The majority of churches in the West are either declining or growing at a pace that’s slower than the community they’re located in. In other words, they’re losing ground. Church has become a litany of activities and busyness. It’s become one program or one thing after another. And there’s no intentionality or movement forward in a direction that demonstrates faithfulness with what God has entrusted that church.
The solution isn’t to look down the street and copy the nearby mega-church. Nor is it to blow everything up and start from scratch. And by all means, staying the same is not an option either. There is no one silver bullet to turning around a dying church or continuing the growth of a healthy one. It takes several little improvements in different areas to add up to growth. And that’s precisely what this book is about.
In No Silver Bullets, Daniel will show you how to shift your church in a Great Commission and Great Commandment direction.
He’ll show you how to make small changes that will get you out of the very routines that are preventing your church from fulfilling it’s God given vision. And he’ll do this by helping you root it into the very fabric of your church—your discipleship pathway.
God has given you talents and God has given the body of Christ talents. So don’t be like a hamster on a spinning wheel, where you are just going around and around without any productive action. Take what God has given you, and learn from what God has given Daniel, and together make something beautiful.
Quite frankly, I’ve seen many churches who have this wide, broad, and deep list of activities.
And their people are busy. Something is always going on during the day and in the evenings. They’re constantly doing things. And they go on and on. But then you look at their impact in the community, and many have never even heard of them. Very few people are being reached for Christ. They simply don’t have a clear direction. They think that busyness is equivalent to obedience. But busyness without the right direction is poor stewardship.
Busyness without the right direction is poor stewardship. Click To Tweet
So gather your leadership team together and work through the small shifts that are outlined in this book. Stop producing consumers and start releasing disciple makers. Your church and your neighborhood won’t be the same without it. So my prayer is that as you read this book, you would become a better steward of that which God has given you.
Although we’re all sinful and broken, seeing the mighty fall is painful, heart wrenching, and incredibly sobering.
It makes me want to throw up.
Especially when it involves individuals in the faith who have gone ahead of us, paved the way, ministered locally and globally, and seemed to be living a life of faithfulness to the Lord.
I guess God wanted to shine the light and reveal what was hidden.
And this time, he didn’t use a flashlight; he went for the jugular and used those outdoor flood lights you see at baseball fields.
This declaration by the prophet Daniel seems to be quite fitting for this time,
May the name of God
be praised forever and ever,
for wisdom and power belong to him.
He changes the times and seasons;
he removes kings and establishes kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those
who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and light dwells with him.
(Daniel 2:20-22, CSB)
Jesus puts it another way,
For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and brought to light. (Luke 8:17, CSB)
Though sin might feel like a personal thing that you can hide, it will eventually come to light.
Though sin might feel like a personal thing that you can hide, it will eventually come to light. Click To Tweet
Jesus will reveal it.
He knows what’s in the darkness, and he is the light.
If you aren’t willing to take steps to deal with your sin today, he will deal with it for you…on his own timing. And trust me, you don’t want him to bring it to light for you.
I love what it says here in the Proverbs,
Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin. (Proverbs 24:16, CSB)
The enemy wants to take you out.
He wants to do this because he knows that sin-induced implosions are the way to get to your spouse, your children, your ministry, your family, and your life.
The enemy uses sin-induced implosions to get to everyone in your life. Click To Tweet
And the enemy knows the kingdom potential that is within a family that generationally knows, loves, and serves God. It’s not about having masses of complacent and consumeristic Christians; what will cause the greatest impact for the kingdom is a few being faithful over the long haul.
So when you fall to sin (it’s not an if, it’s a when), get up!
And when you fall again, get up again.
Again and again as we read above in Proverbs 24:16.
The enemy wants to grind against your soul, wear you down, and make you feel like change is hopeless. He wants to condemn you and tear you apart.
But take heart because “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, CSB)!
You are never beyond the point of forgiveness or out of the reach of Christ because “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, CSB).
So if you’re living in sin, follow these two steps to get up again:
Confess your sins to Jesus because his “grace is sufficient for you,” his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9, CSB).
But also “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16, CSB).
It’s not enough to just confess your sins to God, you have to confess your sins to others as well.
This is what will bring the sin to light and loosen sin’s grip on you.
Friends, shine the light on your sin before God shines on it for you because “nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and brought to light” (Luke 8:17, CSB).
Friends, shine the light on your sin before God shines on it for you. Click To Tweet
There’s a fun little children’s book entitled Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli where a little girl named Ruby continues to ask for just one more thing…
It’s cute because after continually asking for just one more minute of sleep, one more push on the swing, and one more scoop on her cone, she realizes that maybe one more is just too much.
How many of us live the same way?
Just one more chip…
Just one more scroll through Facebook…
Just one more show…
Just one more bite…
Just one more look…
We think it’s harmless—to fill up our time, our minds, our energy, efforts, and days with another show, with more work, with extra calories, with just one more __________, but is there ever an end to it all?
When is enough enough?
And does anything in this world ever truly satisfy?
If you’re living for just one more thing because you expect that one more thing to bring you a greater measure of joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, and __________, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble.
Once you get that one more thing, you’re going to want another one more thing, and another, and another.
Nothing in this world will satisfy that longing for one more thing, other than Jesus Christ, his love, his peace, and the hope that he freely offers you and I.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. – John 14:27 (CSB)
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 (CSB)
Are you paying attention to the rapid advancements in AI?
We often joke that Siri, Alexa, or Google are listening into our conversations to gather data and serve us up with targeted advertisements, but they know better and would obviously never admit to that (ask any one of those assistants if they’re spying on you to see what they say). So if they aren’t, then why does the internet increasingly feel personal and up in our business?
AI, or artificial intelligence
Recently, Google stunned the tech world (and everyone else) with their new Assistant. You can watch it in action here, but here’s basically what they showcased: the ability to call a human being and have it intelligently make an appointment for you!
Keynote (Google I/O '18) - YouTube
Can you believe that? That wasn’t a human making the appointment for you!
Have you heard of Move 37?
A couple years ago, Lee Sedol and AlphaGo faced off in a historic Go match where the 37th move made history. If you’re not familiar with Go, it’s “an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent.” It was invented over 2500 years ago in China and is exponentially more complex than chess (fun fact: it’s one of the few games that I’ve yet to beat my dad in).
This match was partly so historical, not just because one of the world’s best Go players (Lee Sedol) lost, but because he lost to a bot. Okay, maybe “bot” isn’t the right word to describe AlphaGo, but the fact of the matter is that AlphaGo is not a human—it is an artificially intelligent machine designed by DeepMind, a London AI lab owned by Google.
Here’s the thing that made this match even more historical: in the second game for the 37th move, AlphaGo made a move that perplexed the world’s best Go players.
In fact, everyone thought that AlphaGo had made a mistake, when in fact it was actually the precise move that turned the course of the game.
You can learn more about the match and what went down in this article here, but here’s the quick summary:
AlphaGo wasn’t projected to beat the best Go players in the world for another ten years, but it did
AlphaGo learnt how to play Go by being fed 30 million moves from expert players
Then, through reinforcement learning, AlphaGo played countless matches against itself whereby it learnt new strategies and grew its neural network
“Then the team took yet another step. They collected moves from these machine-versus-machine matches and fed them into a second neural network. This neural net trained the system to examine the potential results of each move, to look ahead into the future of the game.”
In other words, AlphaGo knew so much about the game, and saw so much into the future for this match, that it made a move that no human would’ve projected.
A Bot that Encourages Suicide
Microsoft Little Ice (Xiaoice) is a chat bot that not only responds to your messages, but learns how to develop a relationship with you. In other words, “it learns what you like and gives that right back to you.” Currently, Xiaoice is only available in China because it was shut down only a few days after it was brought to America. Since Xiaoice learns how to mirror your personality, a few users got it to say “Hitler was right. I hate the Jews” because they were pretending to be extreme racists.
What if someone was suicidal? Would this bot encourage you to commit suicide? What if you were angry and wanted to take revenge? What if you were a kleptomaniac? Would it encourage you to steal?
Friends, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and it’s here to stay.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.”
What does this mean for you and your faith?
Well, regardless of where you stand in your relationship with God, the ethics of all of this need greater definition—especially in light of the Xiaoice incident. But when it comes to your relationship with God, I wonder what sort of implications AI and robotics would have?
Should churches setup counseling or prayer bots? In fact, Life.Church already has a Facebook bot for this.
What about a Bible study bot to help you dig into the Scriptures? Or this past weekend’s sermon?
How about setting up Google Assistant to receive all phone calls that come into your church?
Or a bot that engages with all visitors to your church’s website?
And what about cryptocurrency or digital currencies? Should people be able to tithe with Ether or Bitcoin?
Have you ever thought through the implications that AI and robotics have on your faith? Click To Tweet
Whatever this looks like for you and your church, it’s not something that we can ignore anymore. I’m not saying that we go back to Second Life and make sure our churches have a presence on all virtual reality platforms (although VR churches are kicking back up again).
What I am saying is that this is important and we need to pay attention to it.
After all, if pornography is already an issue that is preventing so many Christians from experiencing a closer relationship with God and the abundant life that Jesus promised, what sort of impact will AI and robotics have on the porn industry? On sex trafficking? On child pornography?
“It takes courage to be a change leader in the church. Opposition and resistance often come frequently and fiercely. But too much is at stake to do otherwise. . . . The choice is simple: change or die.”
If there’s anything constant in ministry and in life, it’s change. Click To Tweet
When it comes to introducing change, your change initiative will face one of three fates:
It’ll never get off the ground because it will be seen as a bacteria, virus, or foreign matter and subsequently be rejected.
The change will happen, but because it doesn’t fit into your vision, strategy, and values, you will inevitably end up changing things again.
The change will move you closer to the vision, strategy, and values that God has called you to embrace because you started with discernment by using the three steps for introducing change.
So what are the three steps for introducing change?
Step One: SWOT Analysis
The next time you or one of your team members comes up with a new idea, take some time before presenting it and run it through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. This is a great way to systematically think through and discern the broader impact that these ideas will have, while keeping the unique DNA of your organization (vision, strategy, and values) at the forefront.
When you put every new idea through a SWOT analysis, you will discipline yourself and your team to design initiatives proactively around the strengths and opportunities that this new idea presents for your organization, rather than as a reaction to weaknesses and threats from inside or outside.
Step Two: Conversation Checklist
If, after putting your new idea through a SWOT analysis, you still feel strongly about the benefits that this will bring to your organization, the next step is to determine who you need to talk to in order for the new idea to stick.
List the key departments and teams, as well as the decision makers and power custodians. When introducing any change, it’s also important to consider how it will affect the influencers—whether or not they have formal authority—since they will play a crucial role in the success of the idea’s implementation. So be sure to list them as well. Also systematically think through who is going to be directly affected by this new change initiative, and how they will be affected.
Step Three: Team Idea Audit
Once you finishing listing everyone, schedule time to have a conversation with each department, team, and influencer that you marked as having a direct or indirect relationship with the new idea. When together, the focus of the meeting would be to collaborate on the idea and get their thoughts by doing a SWOT analysis together. Instead of sharing your SWOT analysis with them, do a new one together with each point person. Help them answer each quadrant by thinking through how the idea will affect their team.
Once you complete step three, and you feel that moving ahead with this idea is best for your organization, then finish this three-step process by writing out your next steps for today, next month, in three months, in six months, and a year from now.
It takes courage to be a change leader in the church.” – @ThomRainer Click To Tweet
These steps to discerning whether or not you want to begin the change process are important on a few levels.
First of all, they are a practical way to evaluate new ideas that will cause change in the church
Second, they provide a process to evaluate the extent to which those new ideas—take the five micro-shifts presented in No Silver Bullets as an example—will work in your church
Third, and most important, this approach ensures that you filter every new idea through the vision, strategy, and values of your church
But there’s one question that’s begging to be asked. What are your church’s vision, strategy, and values?
Unless they capture the DNA of your church, in a manner unique from every other church in your area, you will not be able to successfully implement any lasting change.
You can’t implement lasting change without a clear set of vision, strategy, and values. Click To Tweet
If you’re interested in seeing and grabbing a copy of my SWOT Analysis Template, Conversation Checklist, and Ministry Area Idea Audit, see chapter six of my book, No Silver Bullets. That’s the chapter in which this article was adapted from. And chapter seven is where you’ll learn how to discover and unpack your church’s vision, strategy, and values.
And as of April 2018, I’ve recorded more than 350 episodes on the three I co-host, as well as other ones I’ve been interviewed on as a guest.
In other words, I know the cost of starting and maintaining a podcast, and it’s definitely not free for the host!
But if you’re committed to it for a certain length of time, and have determined a clear purpose and reason for doing it, then it can be a fun endeavor to undertake.
I’ll talk about equipment options below, but let me get to the reason I’m writing this in the first place.
If your goal is to share information or spread an idea, a podcast may not be the best means for doing so.
“Wait, I thought you said that podcasts were informative?”
Yes, if that’s what you’re thinking, I sure did. And yes, you definitely do get information by listening to podcasts.
But if all you want to do is talk about a topic, share information, or spread an idea, don’t use a podcast to do it. Just blog about it. It’s cheaper, easier, and quicker.
Information is everywhere. Information is cheap. And with the rise of podcasts, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, grow an audience, and keep your listeners engaged if all you’re doing is sharing information that can be read elsewhere.
That’s why successful podcasts are about three things: Consistency + Personality + Grit
While new podcasts are popping up every single minute, they’re also being abandoned on a daily basis.
Just search through a category like “marriage,” or “leadership.” You’ll find hundreds of episodes and podcasts, but when you look a little deeper, not all of them are active.
Now if you’re a celebrity or already have a significant platform, starting a podcast and standing out may not be as difficult, but if you’re wanting to start and grow your podcast from scratch, you’ll need to commit to consistency over the long haul.
After all, the idea of an “overnight success” is really just a myth anyway. Just think about the years athletes and artists grind away in obscurity before they finally get signed or rise to the limelight. If you ask them, it definitely wasn’t an overnight thing.
The idea of an “overnight success” is really just a myth. Click To Tweet
EQ is more important than IQ to successfully start and grow a podcast.
Why? It’s because the best podcasts are hosted by individuals with personality that know how to craft questions (and ask good follow up ones in the moment), engage the audience, and make you feel like family (or a close friend).
EQ is more important than IQ to successfully start and grow a podcast. Click To Tweet
Make you feel like family (or a close friend)…
That’s a key insight there. There are some podcasts I hate listening to, even though they have a significant following. While there are others I love, even though they are incredibly niche and focused. The key factor is whether or not I click with the host and feel like a part of their family or a close friend…
…which is definitely more of an EQ thing than it is IQ.
What about the topic?
The reason this doesn’t matter as much as your personality is because it’s assumed.
In our on-demand culture, if your topic isn’t relevant to the listener, they’re just not going to listen to it. No one is going to force them to listen to it, nor do they have to listen to it so that they can listen to the next show. It’s either play or delete. That’s it.
The best podcasts know who they’re reaching and are more focused on developing raving fans, than distant followers. They know that they’re not going to reach everyone, so instead of being a plain Jane, they decide to be themselves and go for it.
The best podcasts are more focused on developing raving fans, than distant followers. Click To Tweet
Are you focused enough to plan out your schedule? To research and purchase the right equipment? To create a website? To record, edit, and master the sound file? To write show notes? To share about it? To schedule interviews?
Starting a podcast is definitely easier than it’s ever been, but successful podcasts require gritty hosts.
It requires grit to launch a podcast, get the word out, keep it running, and grow it. For most, the podcast is going to start as a side hustle because advertisers won’t even consider sponsoring you until you have a growing and dedicated following.
It requires grit to launch a podcast, get the word out, keep it running, and grow it. Click To Tweet
So do you have grit?
Will you keep at it even if it’s not an overnight success and things are slow? What if you have a dedicated fan base of 100 listeners instead of the millions you hoped for, will you keep going? If not, why are you doing it anyway?
A Good Reason to Podcast
If you’re starting a podcast to become famous, you might as well play the lottery too (so that you can try to buy your way into fame if the whole podcasting thing doesn’t work) because your odds are likely the same.
If you’re starting a podcast to become famous, you might as well play the lottery. Click To Tweet
But if you’re wanting to do it to try something new, to learn, to grow, and to stretch yourself, it’s a worthwhile endeavor and I commend you for it! In fact, I love how Seth Godin has even created a podcasting fellowship program as a way to stretch students and those in the early stages of their career.
Please, please, whatever you do, do not use the microphone on your computer or on your earbuds.
I know it’s easy and it’s cheap, but honestly you’re being lazy and your podcast won’t take off (that is unless you’re a celebrity…and if you’re a celebrity, you know better than that anyway). Bad sound is the anathema of podcasts, so no excuses.
Sure, if you’re being interviewed on someone else’s podcast, the microphone on your earbuds will do because heck, you’re being interviewed and that’s the interview sound and quality that we all expect. But if you’re the host, you need to take it to the next level.
So here are three options for equipment to help you get started:
1. Low-Cost Boot Strappers (~$150)
I’d recommend everyone to start here. The barrier to entry is low and you’ll get decent sound quality. Buy a Blue Yeti Mic, foam windscreen, and boom studio scissor arm stand. And then plug your mic into a Mac and fire up Garage Band. Record close to your mic, keep your gain levels down, and use these filters in Garage Band and you’ll be set. No one will ever know that this is your setup.
It’s getting real now. You either have cash to burn, are recording audio books, or you already have a significant podcast audience and you want to take things to the next level. It’d be the same setup as #2, but just with a better mic like a Electro-Voice RE20, Shure SM7B, Heil PR-40, and a better recorder, like the Zoom R16.
After you record, you’ll still have to create a website, upload your files to a podcasting hosting service, and then submit it to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, etc., but honestly, that’s another topic for another day. There’s a lot of information on the internet comparing services, so I’d encourage you to start there.
This is what I’ve done for my podcasts (and others that I’ve helped set up):
Create a WordPress website
Install the Blubrry Powerpress plugin
Purchase podcast hosting services with Blubrry (this has to be different than your website hosting services otherwise you’ll crash your website)
Then submit to iTunes, etc.
I hope that helps and if there’s anything I can do to help you get started, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or reach out to me on my Contact page.
If this article was at all helpful to you, can I ask you for a favor in return?
Disclosure: Daniel Im is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
In one of the podcasts I listen to frequently (Masters of Scale), Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was interviewed on his hiring best practices. This is what he said,
So the single most important thing is to get the best people you can around you. When I look at my friends who were running other good companies, the single biggest difference that I see in whether the companies end up becoming really great and reaching their potential, or just pretty good, is whether they’re comfortable and really self-confident enough to have people who are stronger than them around them. I’ve adopted this hiring rule, which is that you should never hire someone to work for you, unless you would work for them in an alternate universe.
“Never hire someone to work for you, unless you would work for them.” – Mark Zuckerberg Click To Tweet
Which doesn’t mean that you should give them your job, but just if the tables were turned and you were looking for a job, would you be comfortable working for this person? I basically think that if the answer to that is “no,” then you’re doing something expedient by hiring them, but you’re not doing as well as you can on that.
There are all these things that Sheryl, for example, is just much stronger than me at, and that makes me better and makes Facebook better. And I am not afraid or threatened by that—I value that. That’s what makes Facebook good.
“You should never hire someone to work for you, unless you would work for them in an alternate universe.”
When’s the last time you hired someone with that perspective in mind?
And if you’ve never interviewed someone who could be your boss, perhaps there’s something wrong with your job posting or the way you’re going about recruiting.
Unqualified, Qualified, and Overqualified
In all the positions I’ve hired, I’ve come across a lot of unqualified candidates. These don’t phase me. In fact, I often throw the résumés away because responding to every one of them would take too much time.
If the candidate is qualified, I then do some digging on social media to see what I can glean. If they’re legit, I’ll schedule an initial Skype/FaceTime/Zoom interview to get a feel for the type of person behind the cover letter and résumé.
If the candidate is overqualified, that’s when I get a bit nervous. Not flattered, but nervous. The following questions run through my mind:
Do they not know that they’re overqualified?
With all their experience, why do they want this job?
What’s their ulterior motive?
Why did they leave their previous job? What happened?
Yes, I can be pretty pessimistic, but the exponentially negative consequences of hiring the wrong person are worth it.
Having said that, I’ll still schedule the initial Skype/FaceTime/Zoom, but it’s less of an interview, and more like investigative journalism.
Interview with your organization’s growth track in mind. Click To Tweet
If they’re overqualified, I’m interviewing with other potential positions in mind (even if the positions are filled) to determine whether or not there is a growth track at the church or organization. If there isn’t, then I’m less likely to pursue the candidate because their engagement levels are going to be pretty low, which will inevitably lead to a short tenure in the position.
In other words, don’t just hire someone to fill a position. Only hire them if you see the potential that they can grow with you.
Don’t just hire to fill a position. Hire them if they can grow with you. Click To Tweet
But the question that I haven’t asked is whether or not I’d be okay working for them.
That’s a game changer and will increase the level of excellence, talent, and growth in your church or organization because, “if the answer to that is “no,” then you’re doing something expedient by hiring them, but you’re not doing as well as you can on that.”
In addition, if you are willing to hire someone you’d be okay working for (some day), then this will prevent you from hiring people who are just like you, or not as good as you. As a result, it will increase the diversity of talent, strengths, and giftedness in the church or organization.