Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture

The church that I lead is working on building a stronger leadership culture. In some parts of our church, like most, this is hitting on all cylinders. In other parts, it is lagging behind.

Recently, I read Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller where he lays out a five step process for building a leadership culture in your church or organization that I thought was helpful:

1. Define it. Forge a consensus regarding your church’s working definition of leadership. How do you define leadership in your church? Many people have a definition of leadership or what makes a leader, but few teams have a consistent definition of leadership.

You’ll want to be able to answer these questions: What makes someone a leader in general? What makes someone a leader at your church? What are the attributes of a leader versus a doer or a follower?

2. Teach it. Ensure everyone knows your leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

There are so many ideas and resources out there to train leaders. What will you use? How will you help your volunteers and staff members grow as leaders?

Each staff member or team lead must think through how they will teach leadership to their teams on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. This doesn’t have to a big event, but it can be. Simple nuggets, simple teachings and reminders often go the furthest over time, if shared consistently.

3. Practice it. Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.

Pastors hate giving things away. I have guesses as to why, but that’s for another post. The reality is that people become leaders by leading. By hHaving a chance to risk something, to succeed or fall flat on their faces. Young preachers need to stand in front of groups and preach (this doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, the main worship service at the beginning).

4. Measure it. Track the progress for our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.

Pastors are notorious (and I do this more than I like to admit) for starting something and not creating any way to measure and track it.

How will you know if you are developing more leaders this month, this year than last? It needs to be more than, “we have more volunteers than last year.” That isn’t always a sign that you have built leaders or a leadership culture.

5. Model it. Walk the talk and lead by example – people always watch the leader.

Sadly in most churches and organizations, the higher you go up the ladder, the less likely those leaders are to create and develop leaders. For some it is an inability to do it, not being sure how to do it, but for many, it is a fear of being replaced by someone younger or better. If you don’t develop leaders though, your church stops when you do.

For me, discipleship and leadership development are two sides of the same coin. Thinking about it this way has been incredibly helpful when it comes to developing leaders. People want to follow people who are growing. If you are building spiritually mature leaders in your church, you will be helping them to grow as disciples and leaders.

7 Quotes on Change from Carey Nieuwhof

If you are leading change in your church, here are some great quotes from Carey Nieuwhof in his book Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition:

The loudest people affected by a proposed change are those who are most opposed. The more opposed people are, the louder they tend to become.

When you focus on complaints, you lose sight of the plan.

Will you focus on the people you want to reach, or the people you want to keep?

There is no way I know to engineer significant change and keep everyone you’ve currently got.

Everyone in your church likes your church the way it is; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. It’s just that the rest of your community may not. Otherwise, they might be there.

When you consider the 10 or 100 who might leave your church if you change, just pause to remember the almost 10,000 who aren’t coming because, so far, you have failed to change. Maybe as leaders we need to start fearing that.

Here are 5 questions designed to help you discern whether a person is indeed the kind of person you can build the future of the church on:
  1. Is their vision primarily based on the past or on the future?
  2. Do they have a spirit of humility? Are they open or closed to the counsel of other people?
  3. Who is following them, and is this the kind of group that you would want around your senior leadership table?
  4. Are they focused on themselves or the people you are trying to reach?
  5. Do they offer positive alternatives that will help build a better future than your current vision for change?

12 Quotes from “The Pastor: A Memoir”

Over the summer, one of the books I worked through was The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson. I’m not normally a memoir fan, but this one grabbed me and I got so much out of it. It was like sitting across from him and gleaning so many nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some things that stood out to me:

The pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “get things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God – this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.”

Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus’ name. A place where dignity is conferred.

My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones.

Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only what it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.

We get serious about the Christian life, we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we expected.

The Holy Spirit forms church to be a colony of heaven in the country of death.

Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered.

My work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.

The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening.

You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed. To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting out of the way. A certain blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work. For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed. Many years earlier a pastor friend told me that the pastoral ego ‘has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.’

A clamoring ego needs to be purged from the pastor’s soul.

We had simplified our defining of Sabbath-keeping to three words: pray and play. On Sabbath we would do nothing that was necessary, obligatory, “useful.” We would set the day apart for the unfettered, the free, the unearned. Pray and play.

There were so many more, but you get the idea. Such a helpful book for me.

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

A few weeks ago I had a plane ride coming up, so I looked through my stack of books trying to figure out what to read. Nothing jumped out at me until I got to Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. I’m not sure why it jumped out at me. I don’t feel burned out. Katie and I live at a sane pace and do our best to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things.

But one of the things I’m learning about reading as I get older is that I am reading less and less to find out something new or learn something I didn’t already know. I’m reading more and more to remind myself of truths I already know and stay on track with the decisions I’ve made.

That’s what I found most helpful about Reset.

Also very helpful was the layout of the book, how he moved from one topic to the next and built on them in a cohesive way. It really feels like a course you are walking through with a counselor, which it is. The reality check portion on pages 24 – 31 is worth the price of the book. He lays out a dashboard for your life, how to know if you are burning out, past burnout, how tired you are and where your tiredness and burnout are coming from.

This was incredibly helpful and something I’m going to use as a dashboard in my life, leadership, family and heart.

What Murray does that sets this book apart is, before getting to any practical tips, he lays out the theology of why what he is talking about matters. This is crucial, especially on the chapter about medication and the chapter about food and your body. Very few Christians have a theological way of looking at these topics, and I think it is hurting many of them.

Here are a few other things that jumped out to me:

  • Every problem I see in every person I know is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life. -Brady Boyd
  • Few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I’ll show you your theology, because we all preach a sermon in and by our sleep.
  • Contentment is a wonderful cure for insomnia.
  • Whatever we focus our hearts on first thing in the morning will shape our entire day. -Tony Reinke

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you are a leader and/or over 30.


Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There

Predictable success is something every pastor or leader wants. Is it possible? Sustainable? Can anyone or any church do it? According to Les McKeown in Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There, the answer is yes.

But first, what is it?

Any organization (or church) that is in Predictable Success exhibits five main characteristics that, taken together, distinguish it from organizations at other stages in the growth cycle:

  1. Decision making. The ability to readily make and consistently implement decisions.
  2. Goal setting. The ability to readily set and consistently achieve goals.
  3. Alignment. Structure, process and people are in harmony.
  4. Accountability. Employees become self-accountable, in addition to being externally accountable to others.
  5. Ownership. Employees take personal responsibility for their actions and outcomes.

Reading through this book, I saw so many things from the church I lead, but I also found a roadmap to move it into a healthier growth cycle.

Here are a few other things I highlighted that might be helpful for you and your church:

  • Making the right decisions seems easy, but implementing decisions and making them stick is incredibly difficult.
  • In Predictable Success you know why you are successful, and you can use that information to sustain growth in the long term.
  • In Predictable Success the greater focus is on the execution of that decision once it is made.
  • The single most powerful characteristic of the Predictable Success organization is the existence of a culture of self-accountability.
  • A key identifier of an organization in Predictable Success: Management refuses to be distracted unnecessarily, crisis mode is rarely invoked and the organization restabilizes after problem solving, with minimal drama.
  • There are two stages to achieving results in business: First, making the right decisions to begin with, and second, implementing those decisions effectively.
  • Too many systems and processes in an organization cause it to slow down and lose its flexibility and lead it to look inward rather than outward.
  • The concept of ownership and self-accountability is the single most important factor contributing to Predictable Success.
  • In Predictable Success, employees take responsibility for outcomes.

The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it

This one is a book I will re-read. The ideas in this book are so powerful. We often underestimate the power others can have on us and the power we can have on other people.

Cloud walks through what healthy relationships and healthy attachment looks like, what prevents you from it, and how some relationships you have you need to end or put boundaries around.

He also helps you to see if you are creating unhealthy relationships in your world. Bill Hybels said at this year’s leadership summit that this was the best book he read all year.

Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future is Bright

If you listen to experts and statisticians, you will hear someone say, “The church is dying. Millenials aren’t going to church.” Are churches dying? Some are. Are millenials going to church? Some are.

This book was helpful on two levels. One, as a pastor, this is a great book to understand how different people in your church relate to each other and to God. Depending on when someone was born has an enormous influence on how they relate to God, how they worship, and how they view the Bible and community.

Two, as a parent it is easy to think my child will connect to God the way that I do. Shaw walks through multiple ways for parents to understand why their child is so different from them when it comes to spirituality.

If you have a millenial child or want to reach millenials, this is an incredibly helpful book.

How to Simplify Your Life

I just finished reading Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels, and it is a really helpful book.

What’s it about?

When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

Key Takeaway

The chapter on friendships was incredibly helpful to me personally. As our world becomes more transient, it seems like people are moving in and out of my family on a regular basis. Whether they finish school, get a job in a new city, move back to where their family lives or get deployed, people move and relationships change. This is hard and painful. I really appreciated the way he talked about seasonal friends (those who will be in our lives for a season) and lifelong friends. We want lifelong friends but will have more seasonal friends, and that’s okay, but we need to know how to walk through it.

Some things that stood out

  • Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order.
  • What sorts of things fill your bucket? What refuels you? What activities or engagements restore your energy levels? What do you need to do to start pouring new streams of replenishment into your badly depleted life? What relationships inspire you? What do you read that elevates your perspective? What in your life is actually a bucket-filler for you?
  • Read any study on the topic of what adds energy and vitality to your life, and you’ll find that most experts agree: Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.
  • You are the boss of your schedule. It’s your responsibility to keep command of your calendar—and you must in order to simplify your life.
  • Your calendar is more than merely an organizer for what needs to get done; it’s the primary tool for helping you become who you want to become.
  • My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

9 Lessons from “Teams that Thrive”

Our staff at Revolution Church recently worked through Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, and it completely changed how we operate as a church. Granted it wasn’t just this one book, but a combination of the timing in our church and this book.

Here are 9 lessons leaders can learn from Teams That Thrive:

1. Andy Stanley said, “If you don’t know why it’s working, when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” While not a learning from the authors, it is still crucial for churches and their teams. Many churches don’t know what is and isn’t working. They have ideas, feelings, thoughts, premonitions, gut feelings. But what is actually working? Do you have data for that? Do you know why something did or did not I aII work?

2. The best teams make decisions as a group. The best teams both make decisions and “own” the implementation. Many teams operate as a place for the lead pastor to share ideas and get “buy in” because no one wants to contradict him and then move forward. Or decisions are made that are passed down by some hidden board, and then no one owns it. A team should be a place of robust discussion that covers every possible scenario, and then everyone owns the final product.

3. For good or bad, leadership teams shape the culture, direct the mission, establish the vision and model the values of your church. Put another way: Great leadership teams lead great churches, and mediocre leadership teams lead mediocre churches. This is just a simple truth. The healthier the church, the greater the teams. There is no shortcut to this and no way around it.

4. When we asked team members what made their team great, the responses almost always pointed to their communication practices. Churches are notoriously bad at communication. Silos exist, people do their own thing. The reason is simple: a lot has to get done, and communicating takes time. It can slow things down, or you might be told not to do something.

5. Many successful lead pastors make poor team leaders. They are gifted to preach, cast vision and think strategically, but they are poorly equipped to lead teams. For our church, I lead the elder team and oversee the whole staff team, but I don’t lead our lead team meetings. Our executive pastor leads most of the meetings that I am in. Why? He’s better at it.

6. Focus on purpose, the invisible leader of your team. This was easily one of the biggest a-ha moments in the book. What is the purpose of the team? Why is this team meeting? If you can’t answer these questions, you are wasting time.

7. Top teams were smaller than underperforming teams. The lead team I’m on right now is the smallest team I’ve ever been on. I think back to the other teams I was on, and they had 7 – 10 people on them. Not everyone got heard, stuff was missed and we wasted a lot of time. Smaller simply is better.

8. Top teams do more decision making and leadership coordinating. While this is the purpose of the team at the top, it determines who should be on it. Most churches draw a circle at the top of the org chart and put the people in that circle on the leadership team. To lead a church, you need to be able to see the whole field, not just your area. You need to be able to make strong decisions, and not everyone is good at that. You need to be able to handle details, and again, not everyone is good at that. This goes along with #5 and who should lead which teams, which meetings, etc. It isn’t always the lead pastor.

9. Your leadership team is the primary determinant of the health, effectiveness and impact of your church. This is a leadership truth that every leader knows but does not want to admit when faced with an unhealthy church or a church that is not meeting its fullest potential.

Our church has gone through quite the transition in the last year because of this book and others. While at times it has been slow, it has been hard and painful for our team (and me as I’ve had to let go of quite a bit), it has made a stronger, healthier team and allowed leaders to lead.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you are a pastor or lead something. This is the best book on teams in a church setting.

The Entrepreneur (Church Planter) Roller Coaster

Recently, I’ve been reading some great books written by entrepreneur’s. Mostly because the application to church planters is uncanny. A few of my favorites are The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Chess not Checkers, The Everything Store, Creativity Inc.and How Google WorksIf you are a pastor or a church planter, you are an entrepreneur and the wisdom in these books are incredibly helpful to those tasks.

Even though most pastors don’t believe that.

Enter Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine and his latest book The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the RideDarren share some of his best insights, but also many from his interviews with the world’s top CEO’s and leaders for his magazine. Simply fascinating. The insights were incredible. I felt like I kept highlighting parts of the book!

Here are a few that jumped out (if you are a pastor or planter, simply insert church/church planter when it says business and you’ll see the wisdom):

  • The first and most important factor in building a successful business is that you have to love it.
  • The mistake people make is that they judge one person’s “front of stage” persona with their “back of stage” reality.
  • Work is gonna suck 95% of the time. But that other 5% is freaking awesome!
  • After years of studying the success of the world’s leading achievers across a spectrum of disparate fields, my conclusion time and time again has been that those who are at the top of their game are really just people who have found something to love.
  • When you step outside the status quo, you become a giant mirror for those who stay, reflecting back their cowardice.
  • The higher you climb on the ladder of success, the more people will dislike you. Climb high enough, and people might even hate you.
  • We spend most of our lives pursuing success, but I’m not sure we stop often enough and ask ourselves: What does success mean to me?
  • The person who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer gets paid the most. Period.
  • One of the fastest (and most common) ways to derail your roller coaster car and send it to a fiery death is to hire and keep the wrong people.
  • Your people are your most important recruiting tool.
  • Great leaders know that businesses are nothing but a group of people brought together to accomplish a mission.
  • You cannot shape or create the culture. The culture of an organization is not a whiteboard exercise done with executives sitting around a conference table spit-balling ideas. The culture of an organization evolves around the people who make up the company. The culture is the personality and character expression of the people in it. The only way to shape that culture is to focus on hiring people with the attributes you want your culture to have.
  • Great people want to work with great people. It’s self-perpetuating. It’s the number one thing people are looking for.
  • Great people want to be a part of something great.
  • People don’t go as fast as they can. They don’t work as hard as they can either. They aren’t as disciplined as possible. They aren’t as positive-minded or enthusiastic as they can be. They’re only as fast and disciplined and positive as you are.
  • The leader’s responsibility is to draw out the talent, drive, and capability of the people on your team. Your job as a leader is to grow your people.
  • Activity is not productivity.
  • The greatest threat to your productivity is keeping yourself from getting awash in low-value activities.
  • Any time you feel overwhelmed, there’s a good chance the culprit is a lack of clear priorities.

As I said, if you are a leader, this is a great book to have on your summer reading list.