Are you a People Pleasing Pastor with your Board

Skinny, nerdy, and lacking much athletic ability, I grew up trying to get people to like me. Although I didn’t compromise my Christian values to gain popularity, I used other techniques to gain approval. Those techniques included profusely offering compliments to others, smiling a lot, and avoiding ruffled feathers. Slowly I developed people pleaser tendencies that followed me into ministry. Several years ago after I realized that I was becoming a people pleasing pastor, I began to change how I relate to my board that I’ve described below. Although I’ve made progress, I’m still in recovery.

Board of Directors People Speech Bubbles Discussion Company Lead

For my just released book, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership, I researched over 2,000 pastors and saw myself reflected in many of their stories. In one phase of on-line research pastors could anonymously record their pleaser stories. I gathered over 100 single spaced pages of stories, many of them heartbreakers. Here’s one pastor’s story that struck a chord in me.

For the first three years after coming to First Church, in the fall I would bring a list of recommended goals for the coming year for the church board to consider adopting for the church.  The third year I did it, the board asked me to discontinue this practice as they did not want the church to be a “pastor-driven” church.  They stated that someone other than the pastor should drive the goal-setting process.  This was a hard blow for me as I saw it as a rejection of me as their leader.  They wanted me to be their chaplain, but not their leader.  I honored their request and stopped bringing recommended goals to the church board.  However, I never really got over that experience and I have remained fearful about trying to take an active leadership role with the board ever since.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why I feel bored here and want to move on, but have no idea where to go next.

I felt the pain of this pastor because I’ve been tempted at times to replace my leadership role as a pastor with people pleasing. However, at my new church in London, Ontario, I have an excellent relationship with the board that I attribute to these new behaviors. I feel like I am fully free to lead yet not people please.

  1. I listen a lot. I don’t assume I know it all. Having moved from the U.S. to Canada, I not only am having to adjust to a new church, but to a new culture as well. I’ve adopted a posture of listening and learning and in the first 60 days I’ve met with over 100 people in various venues simple to listen. The word has gotten out that I really want to listen. It has given me solid credibility with the church.
  2. I over-communicate. Each week I send our board a quick summary of my week’s activities and learnings. I’ve also added a new feature in our weekly Sunday bulletin called, “Where’s Waldo (a.k.a. Charles).” In a paragraph I share a synopsis of what I did the week prior. An 80 year old church member told me that she enjoys reading what I’ve been doing. She said she never knew what a pastor did during the week.
  3. I’ve become intensively collaborative. Many U.S. pastors have come to Canada and have failed because they’ve assumed a very dominant top down leadership style. It does not work in Canada (and probably not as well in the U.S. as it once did).  I’ve  enjoyed listening to other’s ideas and incorporating their suggestions into my leadership. I’m not people pleasing in doing so. Rather, I’m honoring how the body of Christ should work together.

I still have a ways to go in my people pleaser recovery. But I’m making good progress and enjoying the journey.

What have you discovered that has helped you avoid people pleasing tendencies?

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InterVarsity Press will release People Pleasing Pastors in February but it is available for pre-order now. You can learn more about the book and view a cool video trailer here.

5 Ways to Handle the Chronic Critic in your Church

Every church has ‘em. The Chronic Critic…the person(s) who simply can’t be pleased. No matter what you do, they have something negative to say. You are not alone when you face chronic critics. Nehemiah, perhaps one of the greatest leaders of all times was on a mission from God. Yet he faced chronic critics. They could have derailed his God-given mission. They didn’t. And here’s what he did.

Critic concept.

Complete this statement: The last time I was criticized by someone in my church I…

  • Reacted
  • Blew up
  • Screamed
  • Cussed
  • Stayed silent and drove my anger inward
  • Became defensive
  • Felt embarrased
  • Listened and learned from the critic
  • ???.

Criticism never feels good. Sometimes it’s warranted. Sometimes it’s not. Nehemiah’s criticism from Sanballat and Tobia was not warranted, yet Nehemiah wisely responded with the 5 P’s below. Nehemiah 4. 1-9 tells the story.

Neh. 4.1   When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,  2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?”

3   Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building — if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”

4   Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.  5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.

6   So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

7   But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.  8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.  9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. (NIV)

You’ll recall that God gave Nehemiah a burden to re-build the wall around Jerusalem, a noble task. He obeyed God’s prompting and got criticized for it. The five insights below from Nehemiah’s response to his chronic critics give us a good template to follow when we’re criticized. I call them the 5 P’s.

  • PREPARE FOR IT: if you want to make a difference for God, you will be criticized, even though what you’re doing is noble. We live  live in a fallen world and this world’s systems and values oppose the rule of God. If satan can use criticism to derail you, he will. The greater impact you have for God, the more you will be criticized, not less. If you try to please everybody, you may avoid criticism, but you’ll be miserable.
    • For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. (Harrison’s Postulate)
  • PAUSE AND PRAY: Instead of reacting, retorting, getting defensive, showing the illogic of his critics, Nehemiah first turned to the Lord in prayer (v. 4). The criticism hurt, but he did not even the score. He asked the Lord to bring appropriate judgment. Prayer takes the sting out criticism and when we pause, it gives time for clear thinking to rule, rather than reactivity.
    • Matt. 5.44 … I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer… (Message)
  • PRAY AND PROCESS: Criticism often makes us feel bad and often we act irrationally or in an healthy way to it. When we get criticized we must, however, process that criticism by asking these kinds of questions. What is valid about it? What do I do with it? Do I ignore it? Do I confront the criticizer? Do I learn from it? We should not disregard all criticism.  We can learn much from our critics. Some critics can even become our best coaches.
    • Psa. 141:5 Let the godly strike me!  It will be a kindness! If they reprove me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. (NLT)
      • Evaluate the merit of criticism in two ways.
        1.  In light of the spirit and attitude in which it was given. Did the critic criticize to help you or to hurt you?
        2. In light of the voices to whom your critic listens. Does the critic hang around with godly people, or simply run with a pack of other critics?
  • PROCEED WITH CARE: Although Nehemiah often prayed, he didn’t use prayer as an excuse to do nothing. He did something. He moved forward with the project to rebuild the wall. When the chronic critic criticizes you, don’t let it immobilize you. Do something tangible.
    • You may need to separate yourself from your constant critics and not listen to them any longer.
    • You may need to boldly tell your critic to stop criticizing.
    • You may need to listen and learn from your critic.
  • PROTECT YOUR VULNERABILITIES: In response to his critics, he posted guards at the wall’s most vulnerable places. Sometimes criticism reveals where were are weakest and most vulnerable. When such criticism reveals those weaknesses, we may need to take some of these extra steps to deal with those sensitive places.
    • Consult a good counselor.
    • Invite a safe friend into your life to help you process the criticism.
    • Study Scripture to see what God’s Word says about that area.
    • Read a helpful book that addresses your sensitive area.

Ultimately we must look to Christ who provided the perfect pattern for responding to our chronic critics.

1Pet. 2.23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

What has helped you respond to your critics?

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[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Determined (p. 50). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

How Prevalent are People Pleasing Pastors?

This February Inter-Varsity Press will release my third book titled, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership with a forward by Dr. Ed Stetzer. When I began writing the book, I sought to discover how prevalent people pleasing motivations existed among pastoral leadership.  What I found  confirmed my suspicion.

people pleasing leaders

I commissioned several phases of research on nearly 2,300 pastors that included men, women, young, old, poorly educated, and highly educated from both large and small churches in North, Central, and South America. Surprisingly 79% of those leaders in one survey of 1,000 pastors and 91% in another survey of over 1,200 pastors admitted to people-pleasing tendencies to some degree in their respective ministries.

In one survey I provided a opportunity for pastors to anonymously share their pleaser stories. So many pastors responded that I compiled over 100 single spaced pages filled with heart breaking stories of how people pleasing hindered their ministries. My research also dug deeper to find out the negative effects pleasing caused. Leaders responded that when people pleasing influenced their leadership, these difficulties occurred in their respective ministries.

  • Difficulty in leading the church as you believe you should: 32%
  • Difficulty in accomplishing personal and spiritual goals: 31%
  • Difficulty with the lay leaders in your church: 29%
  • Difficulty in handling the same situation down the road: 27%
    • In the Lifeway sample of pastors in churches over 250, 37% said this was an issue.
  • Difficulty with your staff: 23%
    • In the Lifeway sample of pastors in churches over 250, 38% said this was an issue.
  • Difficulty in your family: 17%

Even though people pleasing can negatively affect our spiritual leadership, we can make changes, which is the gist of my book. In fact, I believe that when we appropriately deal with our pleaser tendencies, we’ll experience these positive effects.

  • greater creativity
  • healthier teams
  • vision clarity
  • renewed passion
  • more internal peace
  • clearer decision making
  • successful conflict management
  • decreased anxiety
  • less defensiveness
  • clarity in hearing God’s quiet voice
  • more fruit from spiritual disciplines
  • less mental distractions

If you’d like to see a cool video about the book, you can view it here. The book is available now for pre-order on all the online sites.

I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.

–Herbert Bayard Swope, American editor and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize

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Some content taken from People-Pleasing Pastors by Charles Stone. Copyright(c) 2014 by Charles Stone. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

New Ministry Projects: 5 Essentials You Must Put in Place First

As I’m beginning my first month at my new church as Lead Pastor, West Park Church in London, Ontario, I’m in a big learning curve. I not only need to understand a new church culture, but a new country culture as well. So, I’m developing what I’m calling my six month on-boarding plan to best discern what needs to be done.

planning tools

A book that’s really helped me create my plan and one that I recommend for pastors transitioning to a new church is, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins. He also has an iPhone app as well. The book is a must read. He suggests that before you implement a change, you must make sure you have these five supporting planks in place.

  • Awareness. A critical mass of people is aware of the need for change.
  • Diagnosis. You know what needs to be changed and why.
  • Vision. You have a compelling vision and a solid strategy.
  • Plan. You have the expertise to put together a detailed plan.
  • Support. You have sufficiently powerful alliances to support implementation.

So the next time you plan a new ministry initiate, consider these pillars.

What other pillars would you add?

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Reference: Watkins, Michael D. (2013-04-23). The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter (Kindle Locations 1711-1715). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition

The Trust Deficit: Take this quiz & discover if your team has it

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?

erasing suspicion concept illustration

Honestly answer these questions to gauge the 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 my next blog I will suggest a few ideas. But here’s what I suggest as a first step. 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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