5 Ways to Live When You’re Tired

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It’s the week after Easter. As a pastor, you are tired. Mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally and relationally.

There’s a good chance that you have been preaching almost every week since January 1st. The summer isn’t here yet, so you know it will be a little bit longer before you get a week off of preaching.

The problem is this: you have very little left to give mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, but most of all, spiritually. 

In light of this reality, let me give you ___ ideas to finish the ministry year strong.

  1. Take care of your soul. Pastors spend so much time helping others that we often fail to help ourselves and care for ourselves. Read something soul stirring, something that challenges you and has nothing to do with leadership or your upcoming sermons. Read something just for you. Over the Easter weekend, I read John Ortberg’s new book Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You. Sometimes I read something from John Piper or  Charles Spurgeon. One of my favorite’s for this is Mondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before Us.
  2. Take your day off. This can be hard to do after Easter. There are people to follow up with, new believers to disciple, people who need to get connected on a serving team or in community. There is a lot to do. You also have volunteers who are tired and sometimes, because you are so tired (and your spouse is tired) you are both on edge and not being at home helps to keep the peace and is easier on things. Don’t fall for that trap. Deal with the issues that come up at home, deal with the heart issues of delegating things. Know that you have all the time you need to accomplish all you want to accomplish. Notice I didn’t say, “all you need to accomplish.” You have time for your day off and accomplishing everything else, you just need to plan better.
  3. Plan your vacation well. You should be taking some time off this summer and when you do, don’t make the mistake of just showing up for vacation and hoping you relax. You need to plan it. How much relaxing are you going to do? I would challenge you to not take phone calls, look at emails, twitter, instagram or facebook. When we go on vacation I hand my phone to Katie, she changes all my passwords for email and social media and then we leave. It is great. I am able to engage with my family fully. Also, what are you going to read on vacation? I’ve said before that pastors need to read more fiction to let their brains take a break. Last year I read all of Daniel Silva’s books and this year I’m working through a series by Vince Flynn.
  4. Be prepared for your vacation. I usually try to take a retreat overnight before vacation. For this reason, I find that the first 2-3 days of vacation and my summer preaching break I am on edge, I have a hard time letting go of ministry, what has happened and engaging with my family. I try to get away for a night, spend time in silence, reading my bible, journaling through the past year, confessing sin, listening to the Holy Spirit about my heart. This is a time that is not sermon or vision focused, it is about my heart. By doing this, I am able to let go of many things that have weighed me down so I can engage with my family and truly rest in the summer.
  5. Spend time with friends or doing something you enjoy. Because of how busy the spring is for ministry, activities, and dealing with sickness, you have probably not spent a lot of time with friends or done the activities you enjoy. Maybe it has been too cold to get outside where you live and you feel it. Take some time for this. Call up those friends and make dinner plans. Set time aside for a hike, gardening, a bike ride or whatever you love that you haven’t been doing.

One of the reasons many people burn out is we don’t think through or work hard at rest and recharging. I think it takes more work to rest than it does to do anything else. We have to focus on it, engage it and let go of other things for it to happen. Rest, recharging, will not just happen. We will not just stumble into it. If you are a pastor, the fall that is coming up is too important for you to limp into it because you failed to make the most of your summer. Don’t make that mistake.

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Fixing What’s Wrong with Your Church

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I remember when I was in my 20′s looking for a new church job after seminary and one of my professors told me, “Find a church that you would attend if you didn’t get paid to be there.” Let me ask it another way for pastors, “Would you attend your church if you didn’t get paid to be there?

The answer for many pastors is a resounding, “No.”

You cannot fix anything at your church, you can’t make lasting change until it is clear you want to be there. 

Here’s why it matters:

  1. You aren’t bought in. If you don’t want to be there, you aren’t bought in. You may tell me you were called there or at least take a paycheck from that church, but you aren’t bought in. You will take the next higher paying job as soon as it comes along. As soon as life with the elders or staff member gets difficult, you will update the resume. If you are not bought in, the first sign of a difficult season will send you packing. I know a guy who simply quits his job whenever it gets hard or he doesn’t like someone he works with. Pastors can be the same. This environment creates little buy in from your church and team.
  2. Others know you aren’t bought in. Your church and your leaders know you aren’t bought in. It is obvious. You have no vision, no excitement for the future, you don’t invite anyone to church, you don’t talk about any conversations you have with non-Christians. You are simply showing up and people know it. Pastors think they hide it but your church is as perceptive as kids are with their parents, they don’t miss anything when they are looking. When it comes to vision and excitement, your church is looking to see what you have.
  3. Without being bought in, you will change the wrong things. If you aren’t bought in and aren’t excited, if you don’t want to be there, you will have no vision. When this happens, you will change what you just learned at a conference. You will come back and start a drama team, start using candles, do dialogue in preaching, have more songs or less songs, preach expository sermons or topical ones depending on what the latest trendy pastors said he is doing. This creates a roller coaster ride for your church. They don’t know what the win is and they get nervous when you go to a conference because of what will change afterwards.

I would say, if you wouldn’t attend the church you work at, find a new church to attend. Notice I didn’t say work at. Be bought in somewhere before working there. This is why, when someone emails Revolution about a job, we tell them to move to Tucson, start attending Revolution and we’ll see what happens. We want people who are bought into our vision and excited about where we are going, not people who want a paycheck.

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Culture Trumps Strategy

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One of the reasons that churches fail to change or be effective is the leaders change the wrong things.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. -Peter Drucker

In their book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and ChurchesPeter Greer and Chris Horst point out corporate culture is tough to pin down. It’s difficult to define. But it sure is easy to feel. Culture is just “what happens.”

Every church says their strategy is to welcome new people, help people meet Jesus, grow in their relationship with Jesus, develop leaders and plant churches. Yet, for a very few churches is this reality.

Most churches do not see guests, new believers, baptism’s or disciples.

Why?

Their culture fights it.

So what do you do? How does a pastor change a church?

Go for the culture. Define the culture you want. Then go for that.

Don’t tell me that your strategy is the great commission if you aren’t seeing anyone start following Jesus.

Peter Greer said, “Leaders cultivate corporate culture within faith-based organizations just like they cultivate their own spiritual lives.”

You must create boundaries, policies, rules (whatever you want to call them) to keep the culture you are going for clear and on track.

You must celebrate the things that matter most, that help you accomplish your culture.

If your culture that you are going for has new Christians in it, celebrate when that happens. If it is baptism’s, celebrate when they happen. Tell stories. Show videos. Preach sermons.

Don’t leave it to chance. Too many pastors seem content to leave their desired culture to chance and hope that a strategy will enable to accomplish their vision.

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Questions Every Blogger/Writer MUST Answer

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about why every leader and pastor should blog. If you decide to blog, here are a couple of things you need to think through:

  1. Why. Most people struggle with what to blog about, more on that in a minute. Why are you blogging? Why is it worth your time? If your goal with blogging is to build a platform to write a book, that’s a poor reason. Do you want to help people? Serve people? Get better at writing? Be famous? It is important to have a stated goal when it comes to your blog. Not everyone should blog. If you don’t have a compelling reason to start blogging, once the fad of it wears off, you will quit.
  2. What. This is the content. For me, I blog about things I find interesting and helpful. I blog about leadership, books, preaching, family, marriage, NFL, fantasy football, crossfit. Things I like. I assume that there are others out there who are interested in what I am interested in and so far, that seems to be the case. I will share things I think will be helpful to my readers and my church, things I’m learning, things I want to rant about, things about my kids and Katie. Some blogs are focused on one topic, which is great if that’s what you want to do. You should have a focus though, a grid that helps you decide what you do and don’t blog about.
  3. How often. This right here is one reason most blogs fail. They don’t blog enough. You can read about how to design a blog, what plug-ins to use, how to connect it to social media (and you should do all this). If you don’t blog on a regular basis, your blog will not get off the ground. I probably blog too much, but that’s my choice. Some blog 3 times a week or everyday. The point is, your readers need to know how often you will blog. People will tire of checking back on your blog for new information and it isn’t there, they will give up. I would say someone should start blogging when they can do it 3 times a week.

Blogging takes work, it is a job in many ways. You will spend hours writing, working on ideas, finding pictures for posts, responding to comments, looking for links to share and doing it all over again.

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Leaders and the Unknown

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Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers. -Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

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Why You Aren’t a Leader

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I meet a lot of people in their 20′s and 30′s who are really smart. The reason I know they are smart is because they tell me. Typically, in your 20′s, you are always the smartest person in the room, especially as it relates to churches. I get it. I was the same way. I’ve had to since apologize to some people I worked under for my arrogance.

If you are in your 20′s and 30′s, there is also a sense of people should just hand things to you.

I remember a couple of years ago being asked by some people at Revolution why we weren’t supporting a church plant in Tucson (sadly, this church plant no longer exists). My response was, “they never asked.” Now, the people asking knew the planter and asked why we didn’t just give money to them without them asking.

Answer: leaders cast a vision. Leaders make the ask. Leaders make it known what is needed. Leaders sit across the table from influencers, givers, and others leaders, cast a vision and say, “I want you to be involved and here’s how _____.”

Leaders do not wait for someone to give them something.

If you are a church planter or pastor and don’t have the volunteers you need, the money you need, the people you need. You have either not asked or you are not casting a compelling vision for people to join.

Don’t miss this: people are not looking for something else to give to or something else to do. 

They are looking for something worth their time, money and effort.

This is hard to do and this one reason is why so few dreamers ever reach their full potential. Here are 3 ways to ask:

  1. Don’t say no for someone. You have a need and you know the perfect person to fill that need, except they are really busy. Many pastors will not ask that person, they will ask someone less qualified. Don’t. Don’t say no for someone. Let them say no for themselves. They might be too busy. They might cut something out of their life to do what you ask them to do.
  2. Know what you are asking for. If you are asking them to give to something, know how much you are asking for. If it is serving, know for how long and how much time it will take. The more specific you are in what you are asking for, the higher the chance they will say yes.
  3. Know why you are asking. This is where many leaders miss the boat. They know “what” and “how” for their church plant, team, ministry, etc. but they don’t know why. Why should this person do this? What will it gain? Why is it worth their time or money? I once talked to a campus minister and all he told me in our hour meeting was what he would do on campus. I already knew that. I wanted to know why, I wanted to hear his heart, I wanted to hear his passion and why it drove him to give his life to it.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Will Mancini on Why your church is working at only 50% of its effectiveness.

The problem is that most churches have a general sense of their mission rather than clearly defined and contextually crafted mission.

Jon Acuff on 6 tips to get up earlier in the morning.

Daniel Cooly on Pastoral envy.

So, after an average first pastorate, we moved from Canada to a church plant of 120 people in New Mexico. I was ready to become a workaholic, see our church grow, have a meltdown, repent of my selfishness, lead a seminary department, and write a best-seller entitled Dogs Playing Poker. Actually, I’ve never wanted a mega-ministry, but a growing, healthy ministry would be awesome.

Denny Burk on How to spot a false teacher.

The Bible suggests at least six characteristics that commonly identify false teachers. Not every false teachers exhibits all of these characteristics at once, but often times they present some combination of these traits.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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6 ways to stay off the emotional roller coaster of ministry.

Ministry is an emotional roller coaster. Much of leadership is for that matter. One day you’re on top of the world,. The next day you want to bury yourself in a deep cave. You probably think only the way to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry is to quit. To leave it for a more normal life. It’s not. In fact, I don’t recommend it.

Thom Rainer on 10 fears of church leaders.

Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

Joshua Shaw on 7 ways to engage men in church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse. We have done everything we can to open the doors for their acceptance and involvement, but when push comes to shove, the idea of staying at home watching ESPN, designing a logo for a new company, finishing a work project, or merely sleeping in, becomes top priority.

Eric Geiger on Your leadership shelf life.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

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Help Me Write my Exponential Talk

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I’m speaking at Exponential East in a couple weeks on the topic: Transitioning your church from small groups to missional communities

The goal of my talk is to share the story of Revolution and our transition and help churches understand:

  1. Why they should transition from small groups to missional communities.
  2. How to make this transition (or any leadership transition).
  3. What are the steps in this transition that must be made.
  4. And help them have a plan on what to expect personally from this transition.

If you were sitting in this seminar or have questions about it, what would they be? If you’ve made this transition or are in this transition, what would you tell leaders thinking about making this transition?

Leave me a comment here, on twitter or facebook or shoot me an email. I’d love your feedback.

 

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Make a Decision (Leadership Reflections on World Vision)

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Last week, the Christian blog world exploded with the news that World Vision would change their hiring policy and hire Christians in same sex relationships. The reaction was swift and expected. Then, a day later they changed their policy back to what it was and announced they had made a mistake. Right wing Christians everywhere rejoiced and said that World Vision had gotten it right.

Church planters are faced with vision and financial decisions all the time. This situation is ripe with leadership wisdom for us as pastors and leaders. This blog is not about the decision or what the decision was about, only what leaders can learn about decisions.

In all this, I want to bring out a leadership principles.

One: When you make a decision, make sure it is the right one and stick to it. 

Did World Vision make the right decision changing their policy or changing it back? That’s not my decision or concern of this blog. I think if they are going to be a Christian organization, they should stick to what the Bible teaches on issues.

The leadership move in this was very weak. To announce a decision, one that apparently had been in the making for months and then go back on it the next day showed little backbone.

Two: Know that some decisions you make as a leader will go unnoticed and others will cause a storm. 

Leaders guess wrong on this all the time. We think we are making some monumental decision that will cause people to picket, we are going to say some controversial thing in a sermon that will make people flood our email inbox and nothing happens. Then, we say something off hand, make a small change and we are in meetings for a week. At a moments notice, a decision can create a storm. Be ready.

Three: When you make a decision, finances will be the thing that will make you want to turn back. 

Church planters know this to be true. 3 weeks after we started Revolution Church, I had a meeting with our top 4 givers and they gave me a list of things they would like to see happen at Revolution or else they were leaving and taking their tithe with them. Their giving made up almost 50% of our budget. They knew this and I knew this. I looked at the list and knew I couldn’t do what they were asking and keep the vision God had called us to. So, I handed them the list and thanked them for being a part of our church and left. They never came back.

At some point, you will have the financial test as a leader. You will make a decision that will cause you to lose donors, customers, or church members. A decision will cause tithes to go down. This is why you must make sure you are making the right choice and be willing to lose that for the greater goal.

Four: Choose wisely the hills you will die on because you will die on those hills. 

Every leader has things they will die for as a leader: it might be theology, a leadership principle, philosophy of ministry, a style of preaching or music. Everyone has them. Choose the hills you will die on carefully because you will spill blood on those hills. I’m not sure if this was a hill for World Vision. If it wasn’t, they wasted a lot of blood. The fact that they went back on their decision seems to tell me that it isn’t a hill they want to die on.

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