Feeling Discouraged? How a Leader can Defeat it

Somebody once said there are two things in life we can’t avoid, taxes and death. I’d like to add a third, discouragement. Church leader or not, you will face it. It’s an inevitable part of life. Here’s how I’ve learned to defeat discouragement.

Some time back discouragement hit me like a ton of bricks one week. It all began on a Monday evening after a good day at church the day prior. We had baptized a dozen people, another half dozen indicated they had trusted Christ, and we began Alpha with a bang.

But when I got the stats back from Sunday’s service, I got bummed out. A not-so-good attendance and a very poor offering pushed me into discouragement. I’d been doing well to not allow low Sunday statistics affect me. This time, however, I didn’t do so well.

During this time of discouragement I learned three small choices that have helped me dig out of my funk. Often we must take the initiative as did King David when lifted himself out of a serious bout of discouragement when he did this. He, “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30.6)

I believe small choices that may not seem overtly spiritual can become ways we can encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Here are the three.

Break up your routine.

That week my wife and my daughter were going to make a run to our local super Wal-Mart and they asked if I wanted to go. My first inclination was, ‘No.’ But after a moment’s reflection, I said, “Sure.”

Usually I’d just sit at the man bench at the check-out line (those benches where guys sit while their wives shop).

This time, however, I decided I’d go to the books’ area and browse. When I did, I picked up a Guinness Book of World Records and had few laughs. I saw, among other records, a picture of a guy who held the world record in piercings (yuk) and a picture of another guy in India with the world’s longest ear hairs at 7 inches (gross). This little break, albeit odd, helped get my mind off my discouragement.

Pamper yourself.

For a guy, this may sound too feely-touchy. I don’t mean with this point that you should go get a pedicure. Here’s how I pampered myself.

At the time I swam at a local indoor pool three times a week and usually went back home to grab some breakfast. I was on a tight budget (as many pastors are) so I seldom ate out. But that morning I decided I’d go through the drive-thru and get some breakfast at McDonalds to treat myself.

I spent a few dollars on a sausage biscuit and an egg McMuffin. After I slathered each with grape jelly, I enjoyed the small treat. This small ‘self-care’ gesture encouraged me. Self-care gestures can help us defeat discouragement. 

Do something outrageously fun.

When I lived in Chicago, each Tuesday night I’d attended a musical improv class. I’ve never had as much fun as I did in these classes. At the time it was my fourth round of classes. As a pastor I was a bit of a novelty to my classmates. Comedy turns blue so often but when I put my clean twist on things, my classmates got a humorous kick. When I drove home afterwards I felt like I’d made a huge deposit into my soul by simply doing something fun. When you feel discouraged, do something fun. 

So, the next time you face discouragement, give these ideas a try.

  • Break your routine.
  • Pamper yourself.
  • Maybe even join an improv class.

What has helped you defeat discouragement as a leader?

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Does your Team have a Trust Deficit? These 10 Questions will Tell You

Trust: the belief that someone is reliable, good, honest or effective (Merriam-Webster). Healthy ministry teams make trust building a priority. Patrick Lencioni, one of today’s best writers on leadership, believes that absence of trust is the biggest problem among dysfunctional teams (see his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team). Stephen M. R. Covey wrote an entire book that shows how teams can build trust called The Speed of Trust. So, how do you know if your team has a deficit? This post answers that question.

Honestly answer these questions to gauge if you have a trust deficit in your team.

  1. Does a spirit of suspicion lurk in team members’ minds?
  2. Do team members overly rely on email in lieu of talking?
  3. Do team members often wear facades?
  4. Is there too much “happy talk” which masks true problems?
  5. Are team members reluctant to share their honest feelings and opinions?
  6. Do team members resist meeting together?
  7. Has the team lost enthusiasm?
  8. Has grumbling and complaining  become the norm?
  9. Is the leader inconsistent?
  10. Do some team members intentionally withhold information from others?

How did you do? If you answered yes to more than one or two questions, your team may be facing a trust deficit.

So how do you rebuild trust?

In the posts below I suggest a few ideas on building trust. Here’s what I suggest as a first step, though. Get the book The Speed of Trust for you and your team and read it. It’s a great read. Here’s a summary of the book to get you started.

What other behaviors have you seen that may indicate lack of trust in a team?

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Has Ministry Stress made you a Zombie Pastor? Take the Zombie Zone Quiz to Find Out

Zombies are big today. Big budget movies, popular TV shows,  commercials, and even zombie action figures have invaded our culture. Even before they became popular, when someone said, ‘I feel like a zombie,” we knew what they meant… they felt exhausted, lifeless, listless, and were simply going through the motions. How do you know if ministry stress has made you a zombie pastor? In this post you can find out.

photo purchased through Deposit Photos

As a pastor for over 35 years, at times I’ve felt like a zombie pastor. Ministry stress, disappointments, and pressure sometimes seemed to sap my soul of life, energy, and joy.

So how do you know if you are a zombie pastor? Take the Pastor Zombie Zone Quiz. (Tweet this quote here)

5 Telling Questions to Ask at Your Next Staff Meeting

Some time ago I read Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide. It’s a must-read for every ministry leader. In one chapter he poses 5 questions that are deeply telling about a church’s direction and impact. At your next staff meeting, pose these five questions and give your staff the freedom to answer honestly. Better yet, email them a few days prior to the meeting and ask each staffer to record his or her answers. Then, bring the answers to your meeting.

Below I’ve slightly modified each since you don’t have the context where they appeared unless you’ve read the book.

  1. As a church are we moving Kingdom priorities forward or are we simply meeting?
  2. Are we making a measurable difference in our local community or simply conducting services?
  3. Are we organized around a mission or are we organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation?
  4. Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels of church culture driving our budget decisions?
  5. If we ceased to exist as a church, would the community miss us (my question)?

What other key questions do you think we should regularly ask about our ministry’s effectiveness?


“I just learned 5 probing questions to ask key leaders in my church.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)


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Ask Yourself these 7 Simple Questions to Clarify your Personal Values

Every pastor needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.

Photo by dtwash

Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.

In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise. Daniel and his three friends best exemplify these values.