Just Because You are Competent to Develop a New Competency, Should You?

I lead a young men’s leadership group on Thursday mornings and enjoy spending time with these young leaders. This past week we discussed the challenge we all face to choose the right priorities, work on our weaknesses, and wisely manage our time. Out of that conversation, this phrase entered the conversation. “Just because we may have the competency to develop new competencies, should we?”

  In other words, how can we discern when to give time, resources, and attention to learning something new, working on a personal deficit, or developing a new skill or competency? Consider these questions as you discern a potential new direction.

Business decision

Before I suggest a few questions, it’s worth noting that in the last few years some influential movements have arisen that bear upon this question.

  • The simplicity movement in the church (i.e., Thom Rainer’s book Simple Church and Bill Hybels’s newest book, Simplify)
  • Focusing on your strengths (Gallup’s 30 year strength’s based research resulting in the popular book Strengths Based Leadership)
  • Positive psychology (psychological interventions that focus not so much on our problems, but upon the good stuff in our lives)

As I just passed the sixty year mark, I realize that I don’t have the energy I did when I was thirty, and that as I age, my brain simply slows down. Actually, we begin to lose brain cells beginning in our mid-twenties, a sobering thought. So, I must wisely manage my energy, time, and passion to focus on that which I believe God wants me to accomplish in my final decades.

So the next time you consider giving significant time to a new project, addressing a personal weakness, or developing a new competency, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Would this choice reinforce my God-given strengths and gifts?
  2. Would it increase my potential to maximize Kingdom impact?
  3. Does it fit within my life purpose? If you are not clear on your life purpose and personal values, this blog shows you how to create them.
  4. Am I doing it because I’m trying to please somebody? For in-depth practical help on avoiding unhealthy people pleasing, you can check out my book on the subject here.
  5. Have I carefully considered the trade-offs? Everything we add to our plate means something else has to go.

So the next time you must decide whether or not to develop a new competency or take on something new, let these questions guide your decision making.

What has helped you determine what you should add to your plate?

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What Makes a Great Staff Meeting? This May Surprise You.

Staff meetings…a necessary part of the ministry and the workplace. I’ve led hundreds. Some went well. Some, well, didn’t. My friend Tim Stevens just wrote a great book to help leaders not only lead great staff meetings, but become better leaders as well. It’s called Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace. I highly recommend it. He graciously offered to write today’s guest post to share his insight on what makes a great staff meeting. He calls this snippet from his book, the 3 S’s of a great meeting. You’ll appreciate his insight.

FairnessIsOverrated[1]

The 3 S’s

If I were only allowed to give one reason why the organization where I served for twenty years was often described as having a healthy culture, it would certainly be a decision we made many years ago to meet together on a weekly basis.

You might be saying, “Uh, you have a staff meeting? Congratulations. Every organization has staff meetings.” But this was different, and let me explain why.

This was a meeting we had every week that was for the distinct and single purpose of creating culture. We called it our weekly “SWAT” meeting—which is a cheesy acronym for “Staff Working As Team,” but within this title is the purpose of the gathering.

This wasn’t a meeting to make decisions; it was not a meeting to share prayer requests or worship (I know you think church leaders do this at every gathering); and it was not a meeting to fix things that were going wrong. None of those are bad, and they all help create culture to some degree. But instead, we focused solely on three areas we believed were the most effective at creating a healthy culture.

Stories

We spent the first fifteen to twenty minutes of every gathering sharing stories. We began the conversation by saying, “Where have you seen God at work in and through the church in the past seven days?” And then it was an open floor. We heard about changed lives inside and outside our walls. We heard stories from student ministry, small groups, and children’s ministry. We found out about the person in Canada who wrote in after watching an online service. We heard about the experiences of people who attended for the first time, and the baptism of someone who had been away from church for decades. We learned about the woman who walked into the building lonely and afraid on a Monday afternoon, and who left having found encouragement and hope. We heard about the guy who was delivered a box of food in last year’s food drive, and who came to help others receive food this year.

You can’t underestimate the power of a story. It is so easy for people to get caught up in the micro-purpose of what they do: cleaning floors, organizing small groups, rehearsing lyrics, or preparing to teach kids. And sometimes you can work week after week and never see any tangible results from your work. But when you have an opportunity to gather every week and hear stories from your area and others, it does three things:

  1. It keeps you from a silo mentality, or thinking you are the only one getting anything done.
  2. It gives you a reason to celebrate what is happening all across the organization.
  3. It gives you hope and reenergizes your vision when your team may be going through a tough season.

If I were running a company, I would do exactly the same thing. I would orient the story-telling segment of the meeting to share reports of great customer interactions or feedback. What are our customers saying? Where is our product helping better people’s lives?

Spotlight

Following stories, we spent time putting one individual in the spotlight. With no warning ahead of time, we asked someone to sit up front and field questions from the rest of the team. We found out about his or her childhood, likes and dislikes, faith journey, spouse, hobbies, and history. This gave us an opportunity to get to know someone on a level we never did before. It took us out of the subculture of our individual departments, and it communicated that we were all on the same team, caring for one another as individuals.

Following the Q&A, we stopped and said, “Now let’s tell [Jill] why we are so glad to have her on the team.” And one after another we told her how her life added joy and meaning to the rest of us. People who were very close to her got to voice in front of others how significant she was to the team. The executive leaders got to communicate the value she brought to the entire organization. People who barely knew Jill got to tell her how they had been encouraged by her presence, smile, or attitude.

Stuff

The final segment in our meeting was used for sharing inside information. It added value to the team when they knew stuff ahead of time. Sometimes we talked about upcoming events; other times we were throwing concepts out that hadn’t been decided on but that needed input from the team. They had ownership when they knew stuff before others, and it equipped them to answer questions and carry the vision.

Occasionally our “stuff ” section consisted of one of the leaders talking about vision, teaching values, or sharing a spiritual lesson. These tended to be unprocessed thoughts. They felt more as if the leader was sharing off the top of his or her heart rather than delivering a prepared talk. Sometimes it was a bit raw, as it hadn’t been written for a larger audience, but the staff really appreciated the authentic nature of being able to hear from their leaders as they were learning—not when it was all finished and packaged.

These weekly gatherings kept everyone on the team energized and focused. We realized, It’s not just about me or my department; I’m part of something bigger. Even if we were having a tough week, for a few minutes we were pulled above that and realized again why it mattered. By the way, I would start this even if my business were brand-new with only one or two paid staff. And in the church setting, this would be fabulous to do regularly with a room full of volunteers. So I’ll say it again: if I were going to do one thing to create a positive culture, I would start with a weekly gathering and the three Ss. With our team at Granger, this ritual was hugely effective in keeping us focused in the same direction.

Tim Stevens is a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders.

Previously he was the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact.

Learn more about his new book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.

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Is a Pastor’s Job a Calling or a Career?

My good friend Godfrey Thorogood is one of the smartest guys around when it comes to church leadership. He’s served as a pastor and now serves as FEB Central’s Leadership Development Director in Ontario. He’s worked with literally hundreds of pastors and recently shared with me that he noticed a disturbing trend among pastors. I asked him to write this insightful guest post.

Successful leader

As I ask myself if ministry is a calling or a career, my mind goes back to the day in May 1978 when God spoke to my heart and said “Godfrey, I want you to help people.” I soon discovered that the manner in which God wanted me to help people was by becoming a pastor. Throughout the past 36 years, God has reminded me many times of that specific call to help people through pastoral ministry.

Since I know I was called by God to be a pastor, that call has driven my passion to serve God and to serve His church. Even at times when my passion waned and I wrestled with staying in pastoral ministry, God would take me back to His specific call upon my life, which in turn would renew my passion.

Over the past few years, I have seen the trend of some men viewing pastoral ministry as a career rather than a call.

As I come alongside to assist pastoral search teams in our churches, I occasionally hear from those search teams that some of the men whom they talk with seem to lack passion as a pastor and preacher. These search teams pick up very quickly that some of the men whom they talk with view the pastoral opportunity at a particular church as a way to advance their career rather than fulfill God’s call upon their lives.

When I finished serving as an intern in my home church, and was called to serve as assistant pastor in another church, the pastor of my home church told me not to view my role as assistant pastor as a stepping stone to future ministry. He said, “God may choose to use it that way, but go into the role with the mindset that God has called you to serve in the church at this time for however long He wants you to serve there”. He also said “Serve with passion, joy and with loyalty to your senior pastor and fulfill God’s call upon your life as assistant pastor in the church”.

I believe the words of my pastor are good words for all of us as pastors to be reminded of today.

Let’s not forget that we have been called to serve as a pastor. Take some time to read through Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Note the passionate statements Paul makes about his own life and ministry. Make his statements your statements as you think about your current place of pastoral ministry. Ask God to continually reignite your passion for serving God and His church.

What do you think about this view that a pastor should view his role as a calling versus a career?

You can reach Godfrey here.

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My Top 10 Most Read Posts in 2014

Another year has passed and it’s been an exciting one for our family moving from the U.S. to pastor a church in Canada. Even through the transition this year I was able to write almost 100 blogs and saw over 55,000 unique viewers visit my site with almost 220,000 pageviews. Thanks so much for following and reading. I hope you’ve been encouraged in your life and in your Christian leadership. I’ve included below the top 10 most read posts from last year.

Top 10 phrase
  1. Are you a Transactional Leader or a Transformational Leader: Take the Quiz
  2. Jesus’ 6-step Strategy to Resolving Conflict
  3. 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Morning
  4. 8 Benefits of Integrity in Life and Leadership
  5. 8 Ways Pastors can Refresh their Tired Souls
  6. 4 Obstacles Pastors Face in Setting Boundaries
  7. How to Make Boring Church Announcements Memorable
  8. 3 Probing Questions Every Leader should ask to make 2013 a Great Year
  9. 10 Biggest Issues Facing the Church Today
  10. The Narcissistic Pastor: 10 Signs you May be One 

What kinds of topics would you like to see me write about this year?

3 Essentials to Resolving Conflict Well

Nobody likes conflict. Yet, it’s inevitable in life. As I’ve served as a pastor for over 30 years sometimes I’ve handled conflict well. Sometimes I’ve not. However, I’ve learned more about how to solve it Biblically from Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a book I’d recommend every ministry leader read. His book is filled with pure gold and I’ve modified below some of his insights with these three essentials necessary to resolving conflict well. I call them the 3-R’s of conflict resolution.

Choose to Resolve or Continue Conflicts - Conflict Resolution

The 3-R’s of Conflict Resolution.

  1. Recognize your autopilot response to conflict.
    • When a pilot flies a jet at high altitude on autopilot, he is passively piloting it. The computers take over with automatic non-thinking responses.  In the same way, when we feel pressured or threatened by another in a conflict, we tend to act on autopilot without even thinking.  Below I list eight F’s that describe unhealthy ways to resolve conflict. In this post I unpack these responses in more detail.
      • Fight-Flee-Freeze-Fuse-Fixate-Fix-Flounder-Feed/ fornicate/ finances
  2. Recast conflict as an opportunity to…
    • ..honor God. 1 Corinthians 10.31 tell us to do everything for God’s glory and honor. Conflict provides a moment in time when we can honor or dishonor Him by our responses. The next time you face conflict, ask yourself if how you plan to respond will honor Him.
    • …help others. Conflict can position us to be God’s healing agent toward another. If we respond well, we can model true grace to the other person.
  3. Realize the ultimate source of conflict: the human heart.
    • James 4.1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The word desires is the word we get hedonism from. It’s conflict that comes from our drive to satisfy ourselves at the expense of others. So, ultimately conflict is a heart issue. In the heart of us all is a drive to order our lives around ourselves and to do and get what we want.  It is called sin. So since conflict is ultimately a heart issue, it takes a heart/spiritual solution, the power of the Holy Spirit to change us so that we handle conflict in a redemptive way.

Resolving conflict is never easy, but it’s not impossible.

Whether you are a leader or not, conflict will come your way. When it does, consider the 3 R’s as you seek to resolve it.

What has helped you resolve conflict?

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