How to Become a Leader

Basics - Leadership

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging now for almost two years. In the early days of the blog, I covered some church issues that I deemed The Basics. It was foundational things that I felt every small town pastor should know–things like service times, websites, kid’s ministry, etc. It seemed only fitting that since we’ve been talking so much about leadership development that I do a post on the basics of becoming a leader.

This post is part of a six part series on leadership development, largely taken from my notes on John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You. You can check out the other posts in the series here, here, here, here, and here.

Leadership can be complicated, but becoming a leader doesn’t have to be.

Actually, it’s very simple.

There are really only three things required.

  1. The desire to become a leader. This one seems like the easiest of the requirements, but I’ve been learning this desire is becoming harder and harder to find, at least within my church. The thing is your desire largely determines your leadership potential, and yet desire is the one thing that can’t be taught.
  2. The ability to build relationships. Leadership is all about getting people to go in a direction you set. So, you’d better have good relational skills. For some people this comes easily, for others it’s something they’ll always have to work at. The good news is anyone can get better at it if they desire.
  3. The ability to learn leadership skills and put them into practice. You can learn a lot about leadership through books, blogs, and podcasts, but the best way to learn is through an experienced leader. They will be able to teach you what works best in your environment and, hopefully, help you avoid a lot of the same mistakes they made.

If you’re interested in growing as a leader, I’m looking at doing some coaching for small town pastors beginning this fall. If you’d like more information about that you can leave a comment below or send me an email through my contact page. I’d love to hear about how I can serve you better.

Is Evangelism the Answer?

I guess it depends on the question. If the question is, how can we expose more people to Christianity? Then, yes. If the question is, how can we get more people to attend our church? Then, I would say evangelism isn’t the answer. At least, not the complete answer.

In fact, for some churches, telling your congregation to invite their friends to church may actually be a mistake.

That is, if you want them to come back.

Because you only get one chance at making a great first impression.

My wife sometimes drives me crazy because she wants the house to be spotless if we’re having someone come visit. And I like the idea of a clean house, but I live with a 4 year old and a 7 year old. So, we don’t invite many guests over.

As a pastor, you don’t have that option. You have guests showing up every week, especially if you’re asking your congregation to invite people.

So, your house needs to be in order. If it’s not, you may want to shift your focus away from evangelism and towards home renovation. Not forever, just for a season.

Some renovations give you more bang for your buck, right? So, let me give you a few places to start that I believe give you the most return on your investment.

  1. Friendliness

Is your church friendly? Do people other than the staff or board go out of their way to speak to new people? Do you have greeters? Do you have a parking ministry? When someone visits your church, do they walk away feeling like you were glad they were there? When we’re talking about connecting people to a church, I don’t think there’s a more important factor than this one.

  1. Really Good Kid’s Ministry

In most areas of the church, people will let things slide as long as they are at least average. This is not one of those areas. You have to offer a really good kid’s ministry. People don’t care about your excuses. They don’t care if you have enough volunteers or money to fund it. They just won’t come to your church. Do whatever it takes to make this ministry great. There is lots of very good curriculum available to you, some for free, and some at a cost. Make it happen. If your church is friendly and offers a great kid’s ministry, you will grow.

  1. Not Terrible Worship Music

Your church has to have a very good kid’s ministry, and it has to be friendly. Your worship music on the other hand, just needs to be not terrible. If it’s average or better, good for you, you’re ahead of the curve. Pastors usually aren’t great judges of this, so you may want to ask around. It may be worse than your realize. If it is, let me say this, an iPod and words on the screen is better than a terrible band and terrible singer. Our student ministry at one time had 150-200 students attending, and we never had a live band.

  1. Not Terrible Preaching

I know for all of us preachers this one hurts a little, but it’s true. Have you ever listened to a pastor of a large church and thought he’s not that good of a speaker? I know I have many times. Here’s the truth, if your church does everything else right, you don’t have to be a great preacher. But you can’t be terrible. If you’re doing the above three things right, and still not seeing growth, it may be time to look in the mirror.

Once you get your house in order by doing the four things listed above, then you can start encouraging your congregation to invite. If you do it before then, you run the risk of people showing up and never coming back.

This has the potential to be a controversial post, so if you disagree make sure to let me know by leaving a comment below. Also I’d love it if you would take the time to subscribe to the blog so I can send you tips on church growth, leadership, and more direct to your inbox each week.

How I Prepare to Preach

I could never be a lead pastor. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of leading or rallying people around a vision. I love doing those things. It’s just that I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure of putting together a sermon week after week. Luckily for me, I’m only called on to preach between 8-12 times a year.

Preaching used to scare me to death. We probably all remember those first experiences being some of the most traumatizing of our lives. For most of us, it meant shaky knees, sweaty palms, and a feeling of nausea.

I was relieved to hear that Pastor Craig Groeschel used to puke every week before he took the stage. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

Thankfully, those days are behind me, and I believe the biggest reason is because of preparation.

I believe ninety percent of nervousness can be eliminated if you are well prepared. The other ten percent is between you and God.

Here’s my process for preparing to preach a sermon. Keep in mind, I’m constantly in prayer throughout the process.

  1. Gather the Big Ideas (2-4 weeks out)

In this step I want to answer three questions.

  1. What is the main thought/idea I want to convey?
  2. What is the main scripture(s) I want to use?
  3. What is the next step I want people to take?

You may also want to include the main points if you’re used to preaching that way. For example, “Three Steps to Discover God’s Purpose for Your Life.” Go ahead and list out the three steps here.

  1. Write a Transcript (1-2 weeks out)

Once you have these questions answered, you can begin writing out your sermon. I write out my entire sermon word for word from the welcome to the closing. This helps me be very intentional with what I want to say, and writing it out helps me to memorize it. I shoot for a word count between 1,800-2,400 words because in my experience this equates to about a 35-40 minute sermon.

  1. Preach the Transcript to Yourself (Monday-Tuesday)

I will then preach through the transcript by myself at least twice, making changes and adjustments as I preach. I also time myself to make sure the sermon is fitting into the 35-40 minute window.

  1. Condense to Notes & More Practice Preaching (Wednesday-Friday)

I will then condense my transcript into the notes I’m going to use to preach from. Once I have my notes, I will use them to preach to myself another two to three times and make any last minute changes.

  1. One Last Look then Preach (Sunday Morning)

I will look through my notes a couple more times, pray one last time, and then take the stage and preach to the congregation.

By the time I take the stage to preach to the congregation, I’ve already preached the message out loud to myself four to six times. This may seem like overkill, and it may be, but this is what it takes for me to be prepared to give my best.

I hope it helps some of you.

What does your sermon prep look like? I’d love to know that I’m not the only crazy one in the bunch, so leave a comment below. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about preaching subscribe to the blog to get my free ebook “8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching.”