It’s a popular myth that every leader should possess the same competencies and skills to be effective and fruitful.
They don’t. You don’t.
Most congregational leaders are steered into activities they’re not good at and they don’t do well!
Congregations suffer because leaders make three common mistakes…
Leaders never gain clarity about what stirs deep within them and never gain clarity about their gifts, skills, talents, strengths.
Leaders, as a result, get mismatched into assignments and congregations that require what they don’t possess.
Leaders allow congregational expectations to steer them toward an endless pursuit of “life-depleting” responsibilities. (Pastors’ spouses suffer mercilessly under this burden too often.)
“Leaders are not good at doing things that they’re not good at doing.” (Scott Rische, PLI’s International Director)
The Flourishing in Ministry research funded by the Lilly Foundation calls this Alignment…
…where the gifts and skills of the leaders match congregational demands and expectations.
When ignored, leaders burn out. Empty out. Get discouraged.
“It is almost inconceivable to imagine that a single person could be uniformly high on the sixty-four distinct knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics.” (UMC study)
A United Methodist Study notes that pastors are required to move in and out of 13 different skill sets in their ministries that require 64 different competencies!
Here’s the bad news… speaking just to pastors here:
You’re not good at 64 different competencies! And, if you’re not gaining clarity in which ones you are competent in and working with your lay leadership to refine your position…
You’ll never have the trust of your people to guide them in facing their greatest challenges.
You’ll never be fulfilled doing what your heart longs to do.
You’ll never be measured by your strengths and you’ll lose the respect of your people.
“The breadth of tasks performed by local church pastors coupled with the rapid switching between task clusters and roles that appears prevalent in this position is unique.” (UMC study)
All of this applies to the rest of us who are not pastors, too. Women and men alike.
The demands are different. Expectations adjusted.
Congregation after congregation suffers with leaders who are in roles and fulfilling responsibilities that they’re flat out not good at doing. It’s one of the simplest and most fundamental of building blocks that every leader and every congregation should set their sights on getting right.
What to Do About It
Leadership Essentials has enabled hundreds of women and men to gain the skills to lead themselves well into leadership and ministry that is fulfilling and rewarding. (Ask the spouse of a pastor who’s been freed from fitting a congregational expectation that they don’t fit.)
Raechel can answer your Leadership Essentials questions or guide you into the right learning community for your next steps.
Finally, forward this blog to a friend. Throw it out as a lifeline if ministry and/or leading has lost its joy.
Over the last few weeks we’ve focused on the findings of the Flourishing in Ministry research! These common characteristics have differentiated between life enriching or life depleting.
Every church leader I know risks fastening their identity to the wrong thing.
Identity might be the most fundamental of leadership building blocks.
The Flourishing in Ministry study funded by Lilly Foundation interviewed thousands of pastors. It’s one of their four fundamentals to avoid a lifetime of life depleting ministry. True for the rest of us, too. Here are the four:
That Would Be “It” If we had that car, that church, that neighborhood, that vacation to post on Facebook
For me? It was approval.
In my early years it made it difficult to deal with conflict. Address staff issues. Confront bad behavior in the congregation.
For many years, my hidden nemesis lead to life out of balance. Start early. Stay late. (In the name of Jesus, of course.) Get family and ministry out of balance. Rest and work out of balance. Time with Gail, our kids and everyone else out of balance. (Deep regrets here.)
It’s a fundamental building block I left out of my foundation that could have enabled me to be a much better husband, dad, leader, discipler, missionary, pastor…sooner.
Better for me to play to an audience of One for approval. Much more grace to be had there!
You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.
I wish I could have overheard for myself: You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.
I wish that for you!
Do whatever it takes to get this one right. Not just saying it right. But living it. Leading with it.
Contact Raechel if it might be time to fasten down some core building blocks of your life and leadership in Leadership Essentials. And, if you’re married, it will be an even bigger blessing to your wife or your husband.
3 simple requests that could change the trajectory of your ministry:
Watch the above video and forward it For the Calling of a Generation.
Pray for God to raise up young missionary disciples to go where you can’t go and do what you can’t do.
Give thanks for the women and men who are faithful leaders and servants and shepherds and evangelists and teachers.
Gail and I are so thankful for the faithful ways that you lead and serve. The PLI team regularly prays for God’s provision and protection for you. You’re part of a PLI community that longs to see vibrant communities of faith sharing the Gospel in new pockets and places. Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for your gifts in the United States and around the world.
If you’d like to receive regular emails from PLI with blogs like this one, sign up here.
Every church leader needs mentors, coaches, guides to flourish. (For short, we’ll call them mentors.)
Remember this? Think of “3” as spiritual apathy and distrusting of church leaders. Think that your leadership task gets increasingly difficult with every widely reported sexual misconduct and cover up noted last week.
The Flourishing in Ministry research among thousands of pastors confirms mentors as critical for your leadership ministry to be life enriching and not life depleting.
An illustration. An Explanation.
We had a staff person (now disguised by the passing of many years) in our congregation who eventually went to prison. To this day I remember my introduction to my “I’ve never dealt with this before.” I was preparing for a Wednesday morning Lenten service at our suburban campus. Our executive director called:
“Jock, you’ve got to get over here (downtown campus).”
It was a ten minute drive from one campus to the other. Sick to my stomach. Hands shaking. Crisis of a degree I had not encountered that promised to get worse. Fast!
A very gracious law enforcement commander clarified our crisis when I arrived. Explained the media blitz that would unfold. (We were rescued from any thoughts of covering up like sometimes happens for public image management.)
I called Stu. I intuitively knew Stu could mentor us through our “never been here before” crisis.
“I’ll cancel all of my appointments and I’ll be there in 30 minutes. We’ll get through this!”
Years later my heart fills with gratitude for both Paul and Stu. Mentors!
I wish back then there would have been a PLI Senior Leader to hone skills of calling, interviewing, managing staff, setting goals, etc. Most of us painfully learn by trial and mistake.
Real Leadership Development
For 19 years, PLI has assumed that real leadership development happens more through relationship with a mentor or coach and a safe community of colleagues than through the transfer of information.
Mentoring contributes to life-enriching and not life-depleting leadership experience in four arenas:
Starting Out – We need focus, personal clarity and sense of unique calling.
Capacity Building – We determine to grow in character and competency and not settle for limited usefulness in our congregations.
Transitions – The many “we’ve never been here before” seasons.
Seasoned years – When leaders choose to finish well and not diminish.
Gail and I have sought out mentors and coaches and experienced guides for years, formally and informally. If we thought they had what we needed and they cared enough to help us, we were “in.” (PLI introduced us to a myriad of mentor-type leaders from whom we benefited.)
I’ve thought about the times when I should have asked and didn’t.
I thought I already learned it all in seminary. (Dumb) Closely related to…
I didn’t know that I didn’t know. (Blind)
I didn’t want to admit my mess or “lackingness.” (Prideful)
I didn’t want to be accountable to take action and/or grow. (No Courage)
I didn’t see the value of building my own capacity to bring greater leadership value to the congregation. (Most congregations will never take on their greatest challenges because they lack the leadership capacity to do so.) (Short sighted)
I surrendered hope. (Hopeless)
Many of you know our story. I was assigned out of seminary as an assistant pastor to an old, angry, declining, changing-neighborhood church. Six months later I was the senior pastor. The youngest and newest on a staff of 15 or 20.
Two pastors, Don Moll and Lyle Muller, I credit as mentors in my early survival. Ironically, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” as much as “they knew I didn’t know”! Without them, I’d likely be one more pastoral casualty pursuing a different career or destined to having learned too many wrong things in a short, destructive first pastorate. (God blessed us with 25 years there!)
So, what about you?
Can you name a couple of your mentors? Anyone currently?
Which season are you currently in as a leader?
What’s the risk of not having a mentor for this current season?
And, back to the spiritually apathetic “3s,” are you willing to swallow hard and gain traction to bring Jesus to them by building trust? And increasing your leadership capacity?
You and I not only need mentors in our lives, we need to be mentors to others. Why not send this to 2 or 3 leaders and start a conversation.
If you’d like to receive regular emails from PLI with blogs like this one, sign up here.
There are many reasons why we’ve lost the trust of the communities we’re called to serve. Here are two new ones:
In the state of Pennsylvania, the attorney general is about to release an 800+ page report chronicling decades of abuse (and cover up!) of young boys by priests in the Roman Catholic church.
The Southern Baptist Convention is currently being confronted with leaders with well-publicized moral failures and the mistreatment of women (and cover up!).
I hurt for my brothers and sisters in these bodies that get disheartened.
I’m not throwing stones here. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I shepherded a congregation as painfully similar news broadcast throughout Chicagoland from our congregation some years ago.
Our earliest beginnings in my own denomination demonstrated that sin cuts through the heart of every human being and can’t simply be kept “out there.”
But, make no mistake, people in your community who are sampling the news hear:
Kids can get hurt inside churches.
Women get mistreated inside churches.
Leaders can’t be trusted inside churches.
And you and your congregation’s reputation gets tarnished.
You tell me how many “far from God” 35-year-olds can distinguish your church from the bodies noted above?
The “it’s not us” doesn’t build trust. Besides, we “could be us” (and cover up).
Plus, it’s a wise reminder for each of us to guard ourselves against the “devil’s schemes… and the spiritual forces of evil.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)
So, here’s what churches are missing!
It’s a Trust issue. The church is not trusted! It’s not trusted as a credible source for Truth in larger and larger portions of our society. And, congregation after congregation has no proven ways to build trust with the not trusting.
It’s hard to imagine that folks like us who faithfully give voice of the inspired, inerrant Word of God might be seen as “Fake News.”
James Emery White insists we must think “process” of evangelism not “event.”
Our friend Dave Rhodes maintains: Truth can only travel at the pace of trust.
Truth spoken with no trust creates resentment.
Most churches have no “process” in their current ministry for a “3” to advance along the scale… for distrust to inch toward trust…where truth can gain traction.
They’re the vehicle where Trust can be built in relationships so that Truth can have Traction in the lives of people who are disconnected. It’s difficult to catch on to for seasoned church folks steeped in church programs. You’ll probably fail at it a time or two. That’s okay! If it were easy everyone would already be doing it!
PLI’s Discipleship to Missional Community(starting in October) will help you build a culture where your entire congregation can be mobilized to build trust with “3’s” and “4’s” and “5’s” and “8’s” and “9’s” so that Truth has traction.
PLI’s 1000 Young Leaders is the catalyst for reaching a distrusting, disinterested generation.
Please take a moment and share this blog with a couple of leaders who might benefit.
If you’d like to receive regular emails from PLI with blogs like this one, sign up here.
Is your ministry life-enriching or life-depleting?
Congregational leadership can flourish…be life-enriching and not life-depleting…when four types of relationships are well according to Bloom’s Flourishing in Ministry project. While this was a clergy study, you’ll find easy application to whatever your role.
We termed it “Collegiality” last week.
Here are the four critical relationships:
Family and Personal Friends
Formal and informal leaders within the denomination or judicatory
Isolation is a killer for clergy and any of the rest of us in leadership.
“In the Philippines pastors and spouses are isolated by geography and difficulty of travel between islands. They’re excited to be here and learning biblical leadership but they’re also excited to be together. In the U.S., pastors and spouses are often equally isolated but not by geography and travel.” Scott Rische, PLI’s International Director
So, a few comments on each of the relationship areas.
Here’s two quotes from Bloom that speak to the staggering impact this can have on clergy, and I would add spouses.
“Fostering positive relationships with the congregation that the pastor serves would …increase the well-being of virtually every pastor.” … “Pastors flourish when they feel they belong… when they feel accepted, affirmed, and cared for by their local congregation.”
Leaders (formal and informal) within the denomination/judicatory
Bloom notes that many pastors feel excluded and not accepted by leaders by subtle and not so subtle cues they receive. Every pastor (and spouse) needs someone in the system that can say to them: “Thanks for what you’re doing. You count. I value you and the sacrifices that you’re making.”
Friendship. Collegiality! In some circles, it’s difficult for pastors to find other pastors with whom they feel safe. Bloom terms it finding others with “a deep similarity.” Antiquated structures no longer provide it. It can’t be imposed from the outside. There’s an organic nature to this.
(We’ll save the marriage and family relationship too often sacrificed in the name of ministry for a future time.)
Two comments and two questions!
You can always tell who the leaders are. They’re the ones who aren’t blaming someone else for what’s not right! So, if you need to improve an area above? Don’t stop at complaining. Take action yourself.
When leaders aren’t doing well… congregations don’t do well either! And the mission of God suffers most.
Where do you need to take action?
Who could benefit…now!…from a touch from you?
Gail and I are blessed to have you in the PLI family. We believe in you or we wouldn’t do what we do. Thanks for leading and serving and seeking to reach a broken world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“PLI is not just a training program. It’s an immersion in an experiential learning that builds community; bolsters hope and brings enormous encouragement and challenge all at the same time that it delivers on critical leadership competencies and skills.” Dr. Justin Hannemann, GracePoint Relational Health
“Flourishing happens when ministry is a life-enriching rather than life-depleting experience.” Click To Tweet
From my perspective the stakes are high! In the next few weeks of summer…
New pastors will begin their ministries with anticipation. They will be… life-enriching for some, life-depleting for others.
Older pastors will retire. They will have been…life-enriching decades for some, life-depleting for others.
Another group? They will quit. Prematurely retire. Change careers. They missed the opportunity to flourish, or never seized the opportunity to flourish. They’re casualties! …of congregations, of an oppositional culture, or too often of themselves. It’s exacted a toll on their souls, their lives, maybe their marriages and families. Mark it a life-depleting experience.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
If pastors don’t flourish, congregations certainly won’t.
If marriages and families are not well, pastors won’t be well. Or vice versa.
And, if pastors, families, and congregations don’t flourish? The Mission of God will languish…and not flourish!
And a lost world will become increasingly dark and distanced from the grace of God.
The Flourishing in Ministry Project at Notre Dame (www.flourishing.nd.edu), funded by the Lilly Foundation, offers up the fruit of extensive research among clergy. They’ve identified four fundamental dynamics that contribute to clergy flourishing in ministry. All of them are easily in reach for any pastor or leader.
4 COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF PASTORAL LEADERS THAT FLOURISH
IDENTITY – The pastor possesses a clear sense of identity, personally and professionally.
ALIGNMENT – Gifts and skills match congregational demands and expectations.
COLLEGIALITY – Support, respect and encouragement from fellow clergy.
MENTORS – Guidance and coaching through the really difficult seasons and the seasons of transition
So… My perspective? High stakes! LIfe-Enriching or Life-Depleting.
While this leadership conversation is more narrowly targeted toward clergy this week, most all of this possesses a transferable quality no matter your role or relationship.
For the 19-year history of PLI (next year 20 years!), women and men have been blessed by this investment! Identity…Alignment…Collegiality…Mentors …
Let me encourage you! If it’s time for you to point the compass toward life-enriching and away from life-depleting, contact Raechel today…(don’t keep waiting)… about new learning community starts in Chicago (September) and Houston (March).
Let’s be honest… You might be doing difficult right now… Ministry is challenging!
The overwhelming sense that I’ve been trained for a world that no longer exists.
The inability to match results (attendance, offerings, programs, participations) with member expectations
So, here’s a simple request!
Of the 4 Characteristics and the 4 More… all core building blocks in Leadership Essentials…
Which one are you doing best? Struggling most?
Who do you know? Your Pastor or Peer…that could use a word of support and encouragement from you right now? Send some Collegiality their way right now!
Thanks! We obviously believe in you, or we wouldn’t do what we do. And the folks that generously support PLI wouldn’t do what they do! Here’s several of our partners and friends that might be helpful to you, too. Check them out.
Endings can (should?) create opportunity for what’s next.
Endings are natural “end points” of life cycles, similar to death at the end of life.
Endings must be informed by facts but are always colored with emotion.
Endings are painfully postponed when informed by emotions and facts are ignored.
Be sure to celebrate and end something well when it’s had a long and/or fruitful season!
Give testimony to what God has done.
Celebrate past blessing and impact.
Remember and thank those who’ve sacrificed and served toward its fruitfulness. NEVER let the people who gave so much get the impression that what they did was not valued or that it was wrong or wasted.
Over the years I’ve preached at many funerals, for many wonderful, godly people. It’s so easy to remind people that death gives way to life. Death stings…the grave wants victory, but we celebrate victory through our Lord Jesus Christ…
…whose suffering and death on a cross, whose “necessary ending” gave way to a tomb that was empty and Easter resurrection.
Endings usually don’t need to be the final word…it’s best when endings bless the resurrection of something that follows.
More and more I see people who could just “live unto themselves” and stubbornly refuse to face a necessary ending. They block opportunity for the unfolding of something new and fruitful in its place. They say: We want to be like a seed planted in the ground that’s willing to die so that there can be a harvest of many seeds long into the future.
It seemed I used to see mostly folks who would stubbornly hold on to a memory of the past and prevent a new season to emerge.
Here’s what’s hard for leaders!
Defining reality takes courage and is usually met with emotional response.
Demonstrating compassion and shepherding grief to those who mourn takes a willingness to listen.
“What Comes Next” is usually unclear and seldom immediately fruitful.
That’s why it takes enormous hope and courage for leaders, and usually their spouses and families, to preside at the funeral of a dearly loved era or program or location or ministry…because death and burial are administered long before a resurrection to next life is witnessed.
I would say almost always the women and men in PLI learning communities find something being birthed inside of them that eventually leads to something new being birthed in their ministries. And that “new” leading to a harvest of new believers in Jesus. Contact Raechel if it might be time.
How about this for an assignment?
Forward this to your leadership group now. Ask three questions:
What is the necessary ending we’ve postponed because we’ve “ignored facts” and “embraced emotion”? (Hint: Every church holds on to stuff that long ago outlived its fruitfulness.)
Do we have the leadership courage to define reality and press toward something next?
Would you ask God for “eyes that can see” and come ready to discuss what you see the next time we meet?
And finally! PLI exists solely by the generosity of individuals and churches that long for churches vibrantly living out the Mission of God. Would you make a gift today or determine to include PLI in your church’s mission giving budget this year?
Dreaming new dreams in the ministry of a congregation is the first thing to disappear when a congregation starts to decline and the first thing to reappear when it leans toward a new future or a new season. (Lots of churches trying to “survive” would benefit greatly if they simply started to dream again!)
Dreaming is a big thing!
Our previous post “9 Things You Should Know” could easily have been complemented with the “79 Reasons Why It Won’t Work Here for Me.”
…I’ll simply stick with the “9”!
My feet are firmly planted in the soil that God still can do more than we can ask or imagine.
So, today, assuming you actually have a dream–a good dream, flawed dream, any kind of dream–here are 3 things you should know about me and 4 thoughts on what to do with the dream.
3 things you should know first:
I always feel like my dreams are as fragile as glass at first and anyone could easily break my dreams…plus I don’t know if those dreams are inspired by God or simply bad ideas!
Most of my dreams, our dreams–for Gail and me–were birthed in the “could anything good come out of Nazareth” territory. People would say wrong place, wrong time, wrong (not enough) resources, to legitimize that dreams might happen some place–just not here…just not now.
So, for most of the 80%ers and some of the 20%ers (see 9 Things You Should Know)…I know. I get it…why you likely believe dreaming new dreams is for someone else…somewhere else.
So… 4 thoughts on what to do with your dream:
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TELL FIRST
Think of your dream like that fragile piece of glass. Who you tell first can polish it, break it, or carelessly discard it. (Think new idea if dream seems too lofty for you!) You want someone who can think with you, clarify, sharpen, pray, caution, tell you it really could be a winner or it’s just a bad idea. But, you want someone that will honor IT and listen to YOU.
SHARE THE “WHY”
Give them just a little sense of the vision behind the dream. Don’t assume people will understand the “why it’s worth it” without telling them. Most of us share “nuts and bolts” and never share the vision of “why.”
STEP 1…STEP 2… STEP 3…
Be prepared to give the simple early steps of implementation so people can grasp how to get started…if we were going to get started. Uncertainty paralyzes.
OK…AND MAYBE IT DOESN’T WORK
I’ve always had folks sitting in the bleachers waiting for the dream to fail! They can’t wait to celebrate!
Don’t be afraid. Just guard your heart. Churches would be wise to create soft landings for failed attempts. Reality is that most churches would be better off to try and fail than to live in the shadows of trying nothing!
All of this may seem rather pragmatic, and I suppose it is. Let me simply say this: For me, at least, the capacity to dream and to press forward happens in community and it happens when I’m mindful that God is still leading and I can trust Him.
Earlier this morning when I prayed I caught myself having hurried past a piece of very good PLI news that arrived yesterday. Crazy…hurried past it! This morning I circled back with prayers of thanksgiving and the simple echo deep in my being that I can still trust God in this uncertain world.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Most congregations fail to appreciate the impact that their current decisions (or the lack thereof) will have on future ministry. Many of the churches helplessly skidding down the decline side of the curve chose not to take on their greatest challenge some years earlier.
Some of these congregations are making courageous choices.
Remember: the longer the decline, the fewer the choices that exist (manpower, finances, energy, etc.).
1. Some are gifting their facilities to nearby congregations in exchange for a promise that they restore ministry and vibrant mission activity in their neighborhood or community. To in effect become again what they used to be in representing the Gospel in that community. There’s a growing array within the PLI family. Urban, Suburban…probably rural. Anglo, African American, Ethiopian, Hispanic, Asian, etc. Churches in Louisiana, Florida, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, California…and I’m sure many other places, too. While one ministry courageously dies, it gifts its facility for a new ministry to be born.
2. Some are gifting their facilities to their regional judicatory dedicated to planting new churches. Not maintaining the institution.
3. Some are enlisting gifted young women and men to 1000 Young Leaders launching this fall. While their congregation might be aging and declining, they’re lifting up missionary disciples to drive bold mission strategies to the missing generation who are raising their Generation Z children outside the church. Contact Kyrie Klopke.
Here are a couple of amazing things:
· A growing number of churches are creating comprehensive wills/gift planning strategies using the PLI/LCMS Foundation initiative (making current decisions to provide future financial muscle). They’re sowing a few dollars today to realize millions of mission dollars tomorrow. Teri Rice can give you information.
· An Ohio church in the PLI family received a seven figure gift from the sale of a religious property from another denomination! The congregation was well known for its mission engagement and generosity in the city and in their suburban neighborhood. When the leader of the religious group inquired of her regional judicatory she was told that it would gladly receive the proceeds from the property sale to offset deficits and maintain the institution. Not a compelling vision. She directed the property sale to the LCMS congregation that had graciously befriended her to fuel their mission efforts. Amazing!
So, my guess? Wherever you find your congregation? It’s time for some current decisions, maybe courageous decisions, that impact the future mission and ministry that will come years after you.
Not much happens without leadership… bold, selfless, humble, mission focused, God-led leadership. Your leadership… 1000YL leadership… whomever.
Institutions by their nature resist change. But, what if the wind of the Spirit of Ezekiel 37 is resurrecting new life in some of our churches?