Leadership = Influence

If you’ve never read a book by John Maxwell, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. He has more leadership knowledge in his big toe than I have in my entire body. I’ve never met him, and probably never will, and yet he’s had a tremendous influence on my life.

In Maxwell’s book, The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day, he says, “Leadership impact increases as influence increases.”

There’s no place that leadership is more important than the local church because the church works primarily through volunteers.

We don’t have the leverage that other organizations do. We’re not offering a salary and benefits.

As pastors and ministry leaders, we have to rely solely on our leadership and influence.

If the leader has no influence with the people they’re trying to lead, then they’re never going to follow.

It’s one thing to be obedient to God. We should certainly do what He says, but for leaders, obedience isn’t enough.

You need people to help accomplish the vision God’s given you, and if you can’t get people to follow you, then you’re going to fail your mission.

So, with that in mind, let me share with you a few thoughts on leadership and influence.

  • Leadership is Influence

Think about it. Leadership is about getting people to follow you. The only way you do that is through influence. The more influence you have the easier it will be to get people to follow you.

  • Our Influence can be Positive or Negative

You already know this. That’s why we’re so concerned about who our kids are hanging out with. You should be just as concerned about who’s leading in your church, especially in kids’ ministry, student ministry, and small groups. A lot of church splits happen because of someone using their influence in a negative way.

  • Good Leaders use their Influence to Add Value

Whenever I write a blog or post to social media, I’m thinking how can I add value to someone else. Otherwise, what’s the point? Before you look to get something out of people, you need to make sure you’ve done a great job pouring into people.

  • With Influence Comes Responsibility

Remember the story about the twelve spies sent into the Promise Land? Caleb and Joshua said we can take the land, but the other ten disagreed and started a rebellion. Their negative influence resulted in every one of their followers dying in the wilderness. Don’t take your influence lightly.

Remember, influence takes time. So, if you’re the new pastor at a church or the new leader of a ministry, it may take some time before people are ready to follow you. Don’t let that discourage you. Be willing to put in the effort it takes to become a great leader.

What are you currently doing to increase your influence? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

An Important Lesson from Carnival Cruise Lines

This summer I had the opportunity to go on a Carnival cruise with a group of pastors who are part of the same association. It was a fun and relaxing trip, and one that gave us the opportunity to talk through some issues our churches are facing. It also reminded me of a very important lesson many churches need to learn: Decide who you’re trying to reach.

It was apparent from the first day that Carnival had yet to decide this, and because of that, the ship felt like it had multiple personalities.

On one hand, they tried to portray a luxurious feel.

On another, they tried to portray they were family friendly.

And another, weird third hand they portrayed a party atmosphere, which in my opinion was probably what they really were. They just weren’t quite ready to fully admit it.

Here are a few observations that led me to this conclusion.

The ship I was on had a very fancy dining room called The Monet. During dinner the first night, a man dressed as a pirate came around to each table, and you were required to have your picture taken with him holding a knife to your throat. To make matters worse, it wasn’t even a good-looking pirate costume.

The ship did have a play area for kids on one of the tops decks, but the toys looked to have been thrown together by going to random yard sales. There was no rhyme or reason to it, and I never saw anyone on staff tending to it or cleaning the toys.

They did have a slide on one of the main decks, which was an attraction for kids, but it also overlooked the party pool.

They had an art gallery next to the arcade and casino.

I could go on and on.

In their attempt to appeal to everyone, they missed their opportunity to be great for someone.

Nothing they did was bad, but nothing they did was extraordinary either.

In the end, I’m guessing everyone left with just an ok experience.

So, what does this have to do with your church? Everything.

Far too many churches try to be all things to all people and end up being just ok at everything.

Here’s the problem with that. No one talks about ok. No one thinks about ok. And no one invites his or her friends to experience ok.

So, decide who you want to reach.

If it’s young families, then make sure your kid’s ministry is extraordinary.

If it’s creatives, make sure your worship service is on point.

If it’s retired people, make sure your senior ministry is going strong and you sing every hymn in the book.

Just whatever you do, don’t settle for ok. Ok?

Have you ever been on a cruise? Would you ever go on one again? Why or why? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Keys to an Effective Evangelism Strategy

How many people have you invited to church in the last week? The last month? The last year? I’ll be honest, for me the answer would be not near enough. But in my defense, I generally see the same 3-5 people each week in my small town, and they all have a home church. All of them except Nancy who works at Dollar General, I’m still working on her.

The truth is evangelism is difficult in a small town. There are only so many places to go, and so many people to invite. And almost everyone has a home church, even if they aren’t really attending it.

To further complicate matters, most of the community commutes thirty minutes or more outside of the town to go to work. This makes inviting coworkers more difficult because most of them aren’t willing to travel to a smaller town to go to church.

I’ve also heard in some churches, probably not yours, congregants are too embarrassed to invite their friends. They’re worried that someone’s Aunt Edna is going to be led to sing a special, and Aunt Edna can’t sing a lick but no one has the heart to tell her.

Given our current set of circumstances, we have two options.

We can do like a lot of churches and throw up our hands and say that’s just the way it is, people don’t love Jesus enough to invite their friends and family anymore.

Or we can start getting really intentional about developing a strategy for evangelism.

I’m hoping you’ll choose an evangelism strategy, and if you do here are a few key components that you’ll need.

  1. A vision for reaching the community.

This seems obvious, but it’s a key that many churches are missing. The natural pull over time for a church is to focus on insiders over outsiders. As the pastor you need to keep the focus on reaching rather than keeping.

  1. Teach people to live out their faith.

If the church looked more like Jesus, I have no doubt that our seats would be filled. The world is searching for love, kindness, and peace. We just have to teach our people to demonstrate it, wherever they are.

  1. Be the example.

Don’t expect your people to be evangelistic if you aren’t. You must lead the way. Look for opportunities to invite, and then share those stories, both successes and failures.

  1. Get everyone involved.

Not everyone is going to be comfortable going up to a stranger and inviting them to church. Not everyone is going to have a long list of friends and family they can invite. Some people are going to be tellers, some are going to be bringers, and the rest need to be pray-ers.

  1. Offer multiple on-ramps.

Evangelism shouldn’t be just about Sunday morning. If it is, you’re seriously limiting your effectiveness. Utilize multiple on-ramps such as small groups and special events. It’s not always about getting people to step through your doors. Sometimes it’s just getting them to step in the right direction.

On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate the level of evangelism currently taking place in your church? What could make it more effective? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

3 Reasons Church Members Resist Change

There are some great leaders in the Bible. Some come to mind quickly, and others you might have to think about for a bit. But who would you consider the greatest? Let’s take Jesus out of the running, because He always tends to win these things, but out of everyone else, who would be your pick?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but I think I might lean towards Moses.

He was a reluctant leader, but once he realized God wasn’t going to take no for an answer, he had a pretty incredible run.

He convinced Pharaoh to free the children of Israel from slavery and let them return to their own land. When Pharaoh quickly changed his mind and gave chase, Moses led the children of Israel across a parted Red Sea. And Moses was responsible for jotting down the Ten Commandments that he received from God not once but twice.

But in the words of Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much.”

What impresses me the most about Moses is how he was able to put up with the children of Israel’s constant complaining, bickering, and backstabbing.

He wasn’t always perfect. He got mad a few times, but if I was in his shoes and God offered to wipe the complainers off the map and start over, I’m not sure I could’ve been as merciful as Moses.

Moses loved the vision God had given him of the Promised Land, but he loved the people God had put him over even more.

I’m guessing you have some complainers in your church. You have some people who will tell you what you should be doing but will never help you do anything. The hardest they will ever work is when they’re working against you.

As long as you maintain the status quo, they’re often satisfied. It’s when you start trying to change things that they get the loudest.

The temptation is to want them to go away, and sometimes that’s necessary. But sometimes God may want you to love them through it.

It’s certainly not easy to love someone who is fighting against you, but I think it helps when we understand why. Whenever people resist change, it’s often because of these three reasons.

  1. They’re living in the past.

All of us have a way of idolizing the past. If you have any sort of card collection in your closet or attic, you’re as guilty as anyone. People who’ve spent a lot of years in the same church tend to want to hold on to the traditions of the past. They would call them the good ole days.

Instead of ignoring the past, one of the best things you can do is take some of those past traditions and tweak them to fit into your current context. This helps you to accomplish your vision without stomping on their memories.

  1. They’re comfortable in the present.

I believe the United States is full of comfortable Christians. They sit in the same chair every week, they serve in the same area, and they give the same five dollars that they’ve given for the past five years. And they would be perfectly happy to do that until God calls them home.

Change scares them because they know it will take them out of their comfort zones. You have to paint a compelling picture of the future that’s better than what they’re experiencing now. A large percentage still isn’t going to change, but you only need a few to start gaining momentum.

  1. They’re fearful of the future.

Who are the loudest critics of moving from a Sunday school model to a small group model? The Sunday school teachers, right? What about moving to two services? You may have lots of critics because people like seeing everyone.

Sometimes the best way to overcome these types of fears is to talk about what would happen if you don’t change. You may want to say things like, our fear of not reaching our community has to be greater than our fear of not seeing all of our friends on Sunday.

What you’ll find from most people is that they’ll resist change until the change happens. Once the change takes place, they’ll realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal to begin with.

Or they’ll still be mad about it and leave. Sometimes that happens, and you just take comfort in knowing you did the right thing for the church.

Who’s your favorite leader in the Bible? Why? Let us know by leaving a comment below and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Types of Pastors Who Fail

Depending on which study you look at, anywhere between 7,000-10,000 churches close each year in America. There are, of course, a variety of reasons why, but leadership has to be at the top of the list. Many pastors just don’t have the skills or desire to learn what it takes to lead a church in an ever-changing culture.

In many cases these pastors have made a good living doing what they’ve always done, so they’ve had very little incentive to change. In my experience a lot of them are doing much better financially than even pastors of growing churches.

The situation only becomes worse when the only accountability they have is to the church they serve. So, as long as they have good relationships with their congregation, they’ll always have a job.

These pastors look successful, but I’m afraid they’re setting their church up for failure.

From what I’ve studied and witnessed, the pastors usually fall into one of these five categories.

  1. The Seeker

The seeker is always looking for a pat on the back. They love to be recognized and praised. Often they are great at pastoral care because it gives them the approval they are seeking.

  1. The Lazy

There’s absolutely no excuse for being a lazy pastor. I hate that I even have to write about this, but the truth is they do exist. When there’s low accountability, some pastors will become lazy.

  1. The Avoider

This one I can much more relate with. Having hard conversations and making difficult decisions isn’t fun, so some pastors will avoid it all together. If you choose to be this pastor, you’re no longer leading.

  1. The Ignorant

Something we say in the south when we insult someone is “bless their heart.” For example, that pastor doesn’t know what they’re doing, bless their heart. Some just don’t have the basic skills it takes to lead a church.

  1. The Burned

Some pastors have tried their best to lead, and yet they’ve been worn down in the process. You go through enough of this, and it’s not uncommon to just give up. The path of least resistance may not be what’s best for the church, but at least you’ll keep your job.

There has to be something bigger that drives us, otherwise these numbers are just going to get worse and worse.

We can’t be content with where we are in the present when the future of the American church is at stake.

What are you doing to set your church up for success in the future? Share your thoughts below and make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

How I Should Be Organizing My Time

I have a confession to make. I’m not putting into practice everything I write about. That’s not to say I don’t believe in it, it’s just easier said than done sometimes. For instance, I think people who wake up before 5am get more accomplished. However, after trying it for about a year, I decided to go back to sleeping in. This is going to be one of those posts. I’m not currently doing this, but the plan is to put this in place very soon. In fact, this post is as much for me as it is for you.

Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t get much accomplished. I’m easily distracted. I can be lazy at times. And I like the dream a whole lot more than doing what it takes to accomplish the dream.

Even while writing this, I’m thinking about how I wish I could be watching Netflix right now.

Discipline is difficult for me, and the more people I talk to, it seems that I’m not alone in that statement.

Yet, if you want to accomplish anything significant in your life, you have to be disciplined.

And since it doesn’t come naturally to me, I need to develop a checklist to live by. Otherwise, there are going to be things I’m going to miss or forget or ignore.

I’m going to encourage you to do the same. Here’s what the breakdown might look like for me.

Daily

Personal

  • Read the Bible/Devotional.
  • Pray
  • Spend 30 minutes playing with my kids.
  • Spend 30 minutes in conversation with my wife.
  • Spend 30 minutes reading a book.
  • Exercise (Ha, I said this was hypothetical, right?)

Professional

  • Post to social media.
  • Respond to email.
  • Send an encouraging text.
  • Various other job related duties

My day-to-day work duties change quite a bit, so it’s going to be necessary for me to create a different list for each day.

Weekly

Personal

  • Help around the house.
  • Mow the yard.
  • Go to the grocery store.

Professional

  • Send three thank you cards to volunteers.
  • Meet with my senior pastor.
  • Host a small group.

Monthly

Personal

  • Take my spouse on a date.
  • Have a family day.
  • Pay the bills.

Professional

  • Meet with the elders.
  • Have lunch with a staff member or key volunteer.
  • Evaluate my weekly and daily checklist.

Yearly

Personal

  • Take a family vacation.
  • Take a mini vacation with my wife.
  • Set goals for the new year.
  • Create my budget.

Professional

  • Set goals for the new year.
  • Celebrate last year’s wins.
  • Look for ways to improve.

It’s going to take some time to put all of this together. I’m sure I’ll need to make some adjustments along the way, but in the end I think it will be worth it.

Do you use any kind of checklist? How do you stay accountable to yourself? I’d love to know the secret so leave a comment below. Also don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

5 Signs Your Church is Dying

I don’t think I’m good with plants. The Easter bunny brought my daughters flowers to plant in these little pastel pails. One seems to be doing alright, but the other is struggling to survive. It’s odd because they’ve received the same amount of sunlight and the same amount of water, yet one’s growing and the other is dying. Maybe your church can relate.

You’re doing the things other churches are doing. You’re preaching out of the same Bible. Your worship music may be similar.

Yet, the church down the road is growing, and yours seems to be dying.

You need to find out why because before you can fix the problem, you need to diagnose it.

In most cases of churches that are in decline or have died, these were some of the early warning signs.

  1. A Refusal to Let Go of the Past

Sometimes a successful past can be your worst enemy. People love to glorify and even live in the past. Especially church people. And when you attempt to change something that may have worked in the past but currently isn’t, you’re going to have a fight on your hands. We’re not talking about biblical truths. We’re talking about changing out the pulpit. The sad reality is many churches would rather die than change.

  1. A Lack of Care for the Community

Thom Rainer said, “When a church ceases to have a heart and a ministry for its community, it is on the path toward death.” I couldn’t agree more. Many churches isolate themselves from the community they’ve been called to reach. Their sign may say “Everyone Welcome,” but how they react to someone new showing up communicates the exact opposite.

  1. A Budget that Primarily Focuses on Insiders

It should come as no surprise that churches who isolate themselves will become completely focused on meeting the needs of those already there. When budget cuts have to be made because of the church dying, those items focused on reaching others are the first to go, which in turn only accelerates the inevitable.

  1. A Steady Decrease in Evangelism

Many churches started off great fulfilling the Great Commission, yet over time they refused to change their methods. Going door to door may have worked years ago, but now it’s a quick way to get shot, especially if you live in the rural south. But instead of just changing the way they reach out, they quit reaching out all together.

  1. A Loss of Purpose

What does the scripture say? Where there is no vision, the people perish. You could also say, where there is no purpose, the people perish. And churches that die are churches that long ago lost their purpose. The dying church’s mantra is, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Here’s the scary thing about death, it has a funny way of sneaking up on us. Rarely is it quick. Normally, it’s a slow fade that is hard to notice. Hopefully, these warning signs will help you discover the problem before it’s too late.

Have you ever been a part of a dying church? What were the warning signs? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

7 Reasons Why You’re Not Ready to Go Multisite

Back in 2012 Leadership Network released a report that said there are now over 5,000 multisite churches in America. That number ballooned to over 8,000 in 2014, and I’m sure it’s well over 10,000 today. And it’s not just big city churches anymore. A growing percentage of smaller rural churches are trying their hand at multisite.

And why not? More churches mean more people, more salvations, more baptisms, more life change.

Why wouldn’t you go multisite?

Maybe because you want to keep your sanity. Maybe because it’s not always the best thing for your church.

I spoke with a pastor recently of a very successful church and asked him when he planned on launching a campus. He told me they had no plans to ever launch one. It wasn’t the vision for his church.

There was something refreshing about that answer because I think a lot of us feel the pressure of going multisite just because it’s the current trend.

That’s a terrible reason to do it, and one that’s doomed to fail.

  1. God hasn’t told you to.

It may be the current trend, but that doesn’t mean God has called you to it. Keep in mind male rompers are the fashion trend of the summer. Just because some people are doing it doesn’t mean you should. Make sure God has called you to multisite.

  1. You don’t have a campus pastor.

You may think you can plug anyone in to be your campus pastor, but that’s definitely not the case. It takes a special person with incredible skills to be able to pull this role off. If you miss on this person, chances are your campus will not survive.

  1. You don’t have enough money.

Whatever you think it’s going to cost you, you probably want to double it. Not only can it cost a lot in the start up phase, but more than likely your sending campus will have to foot a large portion of the bill until the new campus gets on its feet, which could take years.

  1. You don’t have enough leaders.

It could be just my church, but it seems to be getting harder and harder to find people who are willing to step up and lead. When you don’t have enough leaders, the burden falls on a select few and can be too much for them to carry.

  1. You don’t have enough volunteers.

You need enough volunteers to be able to send plenty to the new campus without leaving your current campus short-handed. Volunteers are easier to find than leaders, but they still are pretty scarce.

  1. You don’t have the right location.

Most experts will tell you location is more important than facility. I would agree. The problem is, when you’re doing church in small rural communities, finding a good facility in a great location on a budget is next to impossible.

  1. You don’t have the right systems in place.

Let’s say you have the first six reasons covered, things can still fall apart if you don’t have the right systems in place. How are you following up with guests? What process do you use to get people connected? What happens the first time someone gives? Have you taken the time to answer these questions in detail?

I want to see churches grow. I want you to succeed. But I want to warn you to be cautious jumping in to multisite. Take your time, and make sure to count the cost. That may make all the difference.

Are you thinking about going multisite? Why or why not? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, and while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Developing a Focused Plan for Your Church

I recently finished reading The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan. It should be required reading for every pastor. I have never read a book that so clearly articulates the steps necessary for a church to grow, even those churches who have been stuck for years.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing ideas and thoughts from it for years to come, but in this post I want to share and define the four elements your church needs to develop a plan to move forward.

  1. Mission

The mission defines the primary purpose for the church. Jesus laid it out pretty clearly as recorded in Matthew 28, and churches have put their own wording to it. Basically it should answer the question, why do we exist, in twelve words or less, according to Morgan.

  1. Vision

Many churches and pastors get mission and vision confused or think they’re the same thing. They’re not. While the mission answers the question, why do we exist, the vision should answer the question, where are we going? The vision should have a timetable of between three and five years, and it should be specific and measurable. Bigger vision is always better, as long as it’s realistically possible with the help of God.

  1. Strategy

Now that you have your mission and vision, you need a strategy to accomplish it. Tony Morgan would say that the first step is identifying your growth engines. What are the areas in your church that are most likely to help you grow? For some it’s kids’ ministry. For others it’s music. For others it’s preaching. Step two is defining what’s important now. What are the changes that need to take place? Hires that need to be made? Those types of things. In order to grow, a change is going to have to come.

  1. Values

What are the principles that are going to shape the culture of your church? Your values should drive the actions and decisions of every member of the team. Morgan suggests focusing on internal values first because the character and personality of the leaders will ultimately shape the culture.

I’m a church growth strategy junkie, and these simple definitions were so helpful to me. I love the clarity that Morgan brings to each one.

I would encourage you to take the necessary time to sit down and think through each of these four elements for your church. You will see that these four will form the foundation of everything you do.

Have you taken the time to define each one of these for your church? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let me know, and while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe in order to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Ways to Identify a Vision Vandal

When you ask what vision is in the church world, you’ll get a dozen different definitions. My favorite comes from Bill Hybels. He says, “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” I love that definition. But I’ve also learned the hard way that passion goes two ways.

When God gives you a vision for your life or your church, in your mind you see people rallying behind it because of the difference it’s going to make.

And the majority of people will rally behind it and will be passionate about partnering with you to accomplish it.

On the flip side of that, there are going to be some in your life and your church that are going to be just as passionate about making sure your vision never comes to pass.

I call these people vision vandals.

And they’re in every church just waiting for their chance to strike.

Many of them are great people. They have good intentions. They can even appear to be some of your best friends.

Yet, a new vision brings out the worst in them. Because a new vision means things will have to change, and vision vandals hate change. They will fight it every chance they get.

The saddest part is many times the vandals win, and good pastors lose.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

So, let me give you a few ways to spot these vandals before they hijack your vision.

  1. They want to control rather than serve.

One of the easiest ways to spot them is they’re quick to sign up to be on committees and boards, and yet they never sign up to actually serve anyone. Watch out for families who nominate their relatives. This could be a power move by them to gain more control.

  1. They will manipulate to get their way.

Vandals will always bring complaints to you but never give the names of those complaining. I would advise you to ignore these. Refuse to listen to them unless they give you the name of the person complaining so you can speak directly to them. Most of the time, you’ll find that they are really the person with the complaint, but they want to make you feel like it’s the entire church.

  1. They will talk behind your back and others.

If they have the tendency to come to you to complain or gossip about someone else, just know they’re doing the same thing to you. They will work behind the scenes to erode trust in you so that when you get ready to launch a new vision, ministry, or initiative they can tear it and you down.

  1. They are not team players.

They don’t play well with others. Instead of believing the best about their teammates, they will find a way to complain about them. They will tear down the team’s accomplishments in order to try to make themselves look better.

Many times they will show a complete lack of respect for others. Don’t let this slide. You’ll regret it later.

Ministry is hard enough without having your own people fight against you. Do everything you can to eliminate the vision vandals in your church as soon as possible. Because believe me, given the chance, they’ll eliminate you.

How have you handled vision vandals in your church? Leave a comment and let us know. Also take a second to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.