5 HONEST STRUGGLES MOST CHURCH LEADERS DON’T WANT TO ADMIT

This is one of the best leadership posts that I have read in the last week-STEVE

BY CARY NIEUWHOF

Most of us who get into full-time ministry do so because we sense a calling, not because it was a ‘career path’.

Chances are you got in this because you love God, deeply, right?

So it’s always a bit surprising and unusual then when ministry leaders find themselves struggling with the very God who called them into this in the first place. This is true whether you’re paid, bi-vocational or even a full-time volunteer.

Ministry can not only be hazardous to your spiritual health, it can be confusing.

But the good news is that struggling with God is normal. You are not alone.

The best leaders struggled with God.

Jacob wrestled an angel.

Moses almost quit more than a few times.

Jeremiah tried to quit but couldn’t.

Today’s struggles might be a bit different, but in some ways struggle is inevitable.

I personally have struggled with every one of the five challenges I outline in this post.  And what’s amazing to me is that you can get through them. You really can.

Sometimes all you need to know is you’re not alone. And you’re not, even if you feel that way.

Here are 5 ways ministry leaders struggle in their relationship with God:

1. You see setbacks in ministry as a personal statement from God about you

Hey, everybody thinks this way when life circumstances don’t tilt in their favor (why did God allow me to have cancer/lose this job/be in this place?). So it’s natural that this line of thinking would emerge in ministry.

Just because things aren’t going the way you want in ministry isn’t an automatic sign that God is angry with you. I’m always amazed that constant imprisonment didn’t cause Paul to second guess himself or God.

God isn’t always punishing you, even if it feels like he is.

The key is to take the setbacks in front of you seriously, not personally. You’ll be so much healthier.

2. You believe that greater faithfulness should result in greater impact in ministry 

Ever tried to improve your personal devotional life so your church would do better? Gosh, I wish this wasn’t true but in the early days of ministry, I really thought greater personal fervor would automatically translate into greater ministry impact.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Advertisements

SAM RAINER ON NUMB LEADERS

Sam Rainer writes an excellent blog for leaders of established churches.  This post provides some timely self-evaluation as once again you face a new year. – Steve

I’ve had a few dramatic stumbles when I stand quickly, only to realize one of my legs has mysteriously fallen asleep. The numbness makes it feel like the leg has suddenly gone missing, only to give sharp tingling reminders that it indeed is still there.

A foot, arm, or leg falls asleep because of too much pressure over a period of time. This pressure cuts off nerves and arteries, and signals stop going to the brain. The asleep member is still there; it’s just not communicating anymore. And it goes numb.

Perhaps you have served with—or under—a leader who fell flat, who didn’t connect and left a numbing effect on followers. Detachment from followers is the main way leaders go numb. They stop circulating among followers. They are cut off from the body.

In the church, numb pastors are especially dangerous. It means they are separated from the congregation. You cannot lead from a distance. You cannot lead without communicating. You cannot lead without knowing how individual members of the body are interacting.

What happens with numb leaders?

  • Numb leaders stop caring about the feelings of followers. “I don’t care what you think. I’m the leader.”
  • Numb leaders stop having friendly conversations just to catch up. “I can’t talk to you right now because you’re not part of my long-term objectives.”
  • Numb leaders stop seeing joy in little victories. “That’s great, but I’ve got better ways in which to invest my time.”
  • Numb leaders stop solving general problems and start blaming specific individuals. “Who’s responsible for this mistake? Do we need to fire someone?”
  • Numb leaders stop serving. “I’m in charge. Why do I have to do this?”

Tyrants say these things. Numb leaders think them.

And the longer you are detached, then the more painful waking up will be. The longer you are asleep, then the more intense the wake-up process. You’ll have to fight through that pins and needles feeling, shake yourself, and start circulating again.

Because to remain detached is to die. Slowly. Painlessly numb.

WHY STAFF REVIEWS ARE IMPORTANT

Tom Spivey has shared some important insights on staff reviews and their part in transformational leadership – STEVE

By Tim Spivey

It’s staff review time at New Vintage Church. To some, the idea of “reviewing” staff sounds a bit corporate. It certainly can be. However, it doesn’t have to be depersonalized and cold. It can be a time of the year staff actually looks forward to. In my next post, I’ll share with you how we do ours at NVC. Before that, however, I’d like to encourage you to do it. Over the years, I’ve found them a vital ministry tool. Here’s why:

It keeps communication flowing. It’s amazing to me how many churches either don’t do reviews at all, or make them a monologue from “employer” to “employee.” No one likes an annual beating or reminder of where they are on the proverbial totem pole. However, most ministers I know welcome the opportunity to hear how you think they’re doing, and have an open dialogue about they’re area of ministry over a few hours. Staff reviews are important if for no other reason than this: you and the staff get to practice speaking to one another constructively about awkward subjects. It’s going to be easier to talk about “job performance” or delicate ministry issues throughout the year when you do it more regularly.

It’s a chance to say “Thank you.” All staff have done some praiseworthy things. They deserve to know what those things are. It only blesses people to hear, “Well done.” Do it as often as you can.

It’s a chance to offer correction or “tweaks” if necessary. Even the greatest ministers I’ve ever worked with have things they can improve on. In a healthy staff culture, it will be understood everyone is trying to get better all the time. It will be considered a part of the job to self-assess and welcome others’ assessment for the common good. Having said this, it’s also a time to make people aware of significant or growing problems.

It’s a built-in chance to deal with staff issues you may have been avoiding. To be clear, staff reviews are not the grease trap for all the things you’ve been wanting to say but haven’t had the courage to. It’s a better time to check-in on things you’ve mentioned already. It’s a great danger to let it all build up, only to unleash it on an unsuspecting minister at a vulnerable time like a staff review. If, for instance, you’ve mentioned consistent lateness to meetings, this is a natural time to bring it up again or thank the minister for making strides. One rule of quality staff reviews: NO SURPRISES. No Pearl Harbors. One reason reviews can be non-anxious for people on staff at NVC is they know there will be no surprises. If they are to be confronted about something, they know it’s coming. I’ve committed to them they will know of anything needing attention in advance of that occasion. As a result, they can come in knowing the landscape already.

It’s a chance to strengthen the relational tissue of your team. Talking plainly to one another about important personal things builds chemistry. It deepens your relationships.

It’s a great chance to get a feel for staff’s “job satisfaction.” I like to ask what I can do to make their ministry thrive, or alleviate suffering where it may exist. I also like to ask how I can be a better partner in ministry to them. I have learned some GREAT things about how staff members perceive me or what they need from me during this time.

Lastly, it’s a chance to reward people. I like to come bearing gifts, when possible. If they are married, I like to do something that will bless the whole family. In lean years, it might only be a gift card. Other years, it might be a pay raise. But, I don’t want anyone on staff walking away with only a “well done” in words. I want to demonstrate that in a way that staff member receives affirmation best.

I highly recommend staff reviews for the reasons cited above. In my next post, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide to how we do it at NVC.

Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”

SAM RAINER ON LEADERSHIP AND FOLLOWERSHIP

Sam Rainer is a pastor and a researcher whose insights I found most helpful, especially when dealing with traditional churches. Here is a post from his archives “Who You Influence: Five Types of Followers.” – Steve

WHO DO YOU INFLUENCE: FIVE TYPES OF FOLLOWERS

by Sam Rainer

Either people are on board with your leadership or not, right? Nope.

There are degrees of influence and different types of followers. The mantra of “get on board or get off” does not take into account the numerous types of followers and differing levels of leadership influence.

Most definitions of leadership allude to influence as the key driver. But I do not believe leadership and influence are synonymous—leader and follower exchanges are more complex than mere influence. However, leaders do influence followers. And the influencing process is made complex because followers are not a monolithic group.

Knowing how to influence begins with an understanding of who is following you. In her work, Followership, Barbara Kellerman identifies five types of followers based upon their level of engagement with the leader.

The isolate is completely detached. No influence exists between leader and follower. A formal relationship of power may be in place, such as between a congressman and constituent, but an isolate does not know or care about the leader.

The bystander observes the leader but does not participate in any interaction. These followers make a decision to stand on the sidelines. A small amount of influence occurs in this type of relationship. The bystander’s decision to withdraw, however, points to a position of neutrality about the leader.

The participant is more engaged and clearly favors or disfavors the leader. These followers are willing to invest time and resources in support or opposition of the current leadership.

The activist has strong emotional feelings about the leader. They act on these emotions and work hard to support the leader (or to undermine the leader). These followers are highly engaged with leadership and are often closely connected to many of the activities in which leaders are involved.

The diehard is the most engaged with leaders. These followers are willing to die for the cause of their leaders, often exhibiting deep devotion. Conversely, diehards who oppose the leader would die in order to remove the leader. A diehard forms an all-consuming identity around the leader and his or her causes.

As a leader, I would like to think most of my followers are supportive diehards. But it’s not the case. Most likely, it is not the case in your leadership role either. Understanding the types of followers (and who is in each camp) is critical to knowing how to influence. Believing people are simply on board or not will cause you to place too much distance between bystanders and participants. Focusing too much time on supportive or opposing diehards causes a leader to lose sight of the masses. Good leaders understand that knowing how to influence includes understanding the complexities of who to influence.

10 QUESTIONS STAFF MEMBERS SHOULD BE ASKING

10 Questions Staff Members Should Be Asking

 

#1 – Do I trust the leadership of this church?  (If the answer is “no” then there are going to be problems because you will be unable to fulfill what God commands in Hebrews 13:17.)

#2 – Do I find myself attacking other people whom I perceive may be more skilled than me?  (If so then you have insecurity issues!)

#3 – Is there anything happening privately in my life that, if it became public, would disqualify me from ministry?  (“Your life” is NOT “your life!”)

#4 – Do I value my calling to serve Jesus and His church over my perceived gifting?  (If the answer is yes then you will do anything at any time to move His church forward.  If the answer is “no” then you will develop a deep sense of entitlement that will cause you to believe that the church should completely be sensitive to your wants and needs above the call to preach the Gospel and reach the world for Christ!)

#5 – Would I attend this church if I were not on staff?  (If the answer is no then you need to do yourself, the church and God a favor and resign right now!  You cannot serve a church that you do not love—period!)

#6 – Do I always have to be the expert OR am I willing to have others step into my particular area of ministry and point out my blindspots and shortcomings?

#7 – Am I always telling others how tired I am?  (If so…SHUT UP!  You are IN THE MINISTRY!  It’s HARD!  Make sure you are taking a day off to rest and relax and then GET ON WITH IT!)

#8 – Do I get angry when I do not receive the recognition and praise that I deserve?  (If so…repeat this phrase, “It’s not about me!”)

#9 – Am I honestly giving my best effort?  (See II Timothy 2:15!)

#10 – Would the people who are closest to me at work say that I am a walking example of Philippians 1:27?

ARE YOU A TRANSACTIONAL LEADER OR A TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADER

Dr. Charles Stone is a leadership coach specializing in assisting pastors and their spouses. He writes a blog  that I find to be very helpful in leadership development and pastoral equipping. He has written an excellent book called 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them. Recently he provided this post that helps clarify what we mean by transformational leadership.

Are you a Transactional Leader or a Transformational Leader? Take this test and find out.

Recently I was privileged to hear Dr. James Galvin speak on leadership.  He’s authored many books on the subject and has consulted with such organizations as the Willow Creek Assocation, Zondervan, and Wycliffe. He explained a concept called “The Full Range Leadership Model” which contrasts transactional leadership from transformational leadership. You can find a really cool visual that describes the two here.

Essentially transactional leadership is “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” At times we must lead as transactional leaders. For example, we set a ministry or organizational goal and when a staffer helps that goal get met, a reward comes. In contrast, however, we should seek to grow our leadership so that we lead more often as transformational leaders.

Based on the descriptions below, how would others describe your default leadership patterns? The first four represent transactional leaders. The last five characterize transformational leaders.

  • I often avoid getting involved. I tend to be passive.
  • I loosely monitor what’s happening in the ministry and step in only if things go really bad.
  • I set clear goals and standards and closely monitor the staff and step in when things begin to get off track.
  • I set clear goals, provide needed support, and praise good performance.

  • I listen to others and coach them to bring out their best.
  • I ask others for their thoughts and perspectives.
  • I’m genuinely positive, enthusiastic, and cast a compelling vision.
  • I often talk about shared mission, vision, and values with the team.
  • My simple presence can inspire others’ confidence.

Find a few trusted friends and ask them to share with you where they’d place you on this scale.