In a world starving for Godly leadership, what would you say to the upcoming crop of college graduates?
At universities across the country and beyond, young men and women are about to take a bold step into a world that is looking for leadership. As such, there are 4 leadership challenges I am hoping many of these rising stars will embrace as they move forward.
Perhaps you have influence with a young person about to graduate. I would urge you to speak leadership truth into their life.
If you want some ideas as to what you might want to share, let me give you a glimpse of the 4 leadership challenges I will be extending in my circles:
1. If you’ve been given the spiritual gift of leadership, then for God’s sake LEAD
This well-known leadership axiom has never needed more urgent application than today. What the world needs more than anything is fired up young people ready to take their leadership gifts out into the world to make a difference for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
2. Learn the difference between a job, a career, and a call
Most grads will look for a great job. Some will aspire to a fulfilling career. But be among the select few who discern God’s call on their life, and pursue it with everything you have. Remember, God’s call is not limited to missionaries and pastors.
3. Buck the trend- Engage in your local church more rigorously than ever
You are a part of a missing generation in most local churches. There is an unfortunate exodus from the local church for far too many sharp young adults. Resolve now to be a champion of your church, and if you move to a new city, make connecting to a local church your first priority.
4. Devote yourself to fulfilling Jesus’ prayer; “Your Kingdom come…”
Where ever you go, view the world with a “Kingdom lens”. Whatever you see that is inconsistent with God’s desire for the world, take the lead and make it right.
When I look at my own son who is about to graduate, and many of his friends who are graduating with him, it fills me with optimism. Our world can be left in very strong hands with some of these Kingdom-minded leaders who are about to take their next step.
So, let me urge you to cheer these young people on, and challenge them to be all God has called them to be.
If they accept these challenges, the future can look very bright indeed.
What would you say to these graduates?
Originally posted May 29, 2012
Bill Hybels has accurately described the local church as the most leadership-intensive organization on planet earth.
Therefore, for prevailing churches, leadership development is not a function of filling empty slots in an organization; rather it’s an ongoing process of identifying, equipping and releasing leaders to live out their call.
But how do you know where to invest your leadership development time and energy?
That’s more an art than a science, but at the very least I’ve learned three indicators that I could be developing the wrong person.
• Indicator #1: The person is an agenda-driver
I’ve had conversations with people whom I thought had the potential to be a church elder, only to find out that they viewed the position merely as an opportunity to advance a personal agenda.
If you’re developing a leader, be very wary when you hear things like, “If I were on the board there’s a couple of issues I’d want to push really hard.”
Nothing wrong with strong opinions, but when they’re focused on side-issues you have a problem.
• Indicator #2: The person is enamoured by “prestige”
I was having coffee with a rising leader in the church about future roles. But he kept veering the conversation back to questions of his own profile.
Be cautious when a leader’s primary concern seems to be how much platform time they will have or how it is that they will be identified or profiled in the church.
• Indicator #3: The person tries to wedge church leadership into a crowded daytimer
If you’re developing a leader for broader church responsibilities, be careful if they begin to ask things like, “How much time do I need to devote to this?”
That can be a very legitimate, reasonable question. But it can also point to someone who is living life at Mach 10, and who is looking to figure out the bare minimum investment of time and energy.
Look instead for someone so captivated by the call of God on their lives and the vision of the church that they will move “heaven and earth” to be a part of it.
Keep your eyes and ears open for where God is at work in the lives of rising leaders.
And keep your discernment on “full alert” for these warning indicators.
They could save you, and your church, a lot of grief.
How can you tell if you’re developing the wrong person?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
For leaders, those famous words by George Santayana provide a powerful call to learn from the past in order to lead better in the future.
I recently sat down and thought back on the fantastic years I had serving as executive pastor of a large church in Canada. And as I did so I went through the exercise (which I’d highly recommend) of listing some of the most important lessons I learned along the way.
As I looked at my list I couldn’t help but think of how much more effective I could have been if I walked into that role armed with all that I now know.
But since that is obviously not possible, the next best thing is to help someone else learn “on my nickel”.
So, if you’re in leadership of a local church, perhaps you can benefit from the 10 things I would do differently, if I could do it all over again…
1. I would spend a lot more time with those in the church who get and support the vision
2. I would spend a lot less time with those in the church who didn’t get and support the vision
3. I would do a better job honoring our founders and long-time stakeholders
4. I would draw cleaner boundaries between work time and personal time
5. I would pour disproportionate time and energy into the staff who were delivering the greatest results
6. I would take greater responsibility for the development of administrative staff, not just pastoral staff
7. I would be more diligent in looking for signs of ministry burn out among staff. And I’d respond accordingly
8. I would pour more of myself into the young, rising leaders in our church
9. I would hire more slowly
10. I would move more quickly when it came to dealing with staff members with bad attitudes
The best thing about a list like this is that it keeps leadership learnings fresh and alive. I plan to practice this discipline more often.
Because as Santayana reminds us, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned from your own experiences?
Does being an authentic leader require you to tell the truth at all times?
Only if you understand certain vital “truth pairings”.
Let me explain with an admittedly clumsy illustration from the world of fine wine.
Similarly, for the authentic leader, “truth” must be paired with certain qualities. Specifically,
1. Truth must be paired with discretion
Not everyone can or should know everything. A wise, authentic leader will know that certain information should be shared with certain audiences.
Think of how often Jesus healed someone, and afterwards cautioned them “tell no one about this”. Jesus was not being inauthentic. He was pairing truth with discretion.
2. Truth must be paired with facts
A strongly held opinion is not necessarily the same as truth.
Inexperienced leaders sometimes make the mistake of believing that every core conviction they possess must be widely, and loudly shared in order to be “authentic”.
But truth is rooted in facts, not opinions.
3. Truth must be paired with kindness
Firing the bazooka of ‘truth’ can cause a lot of damage if not accompanied by kindness.
The sad legacy of many churches is one of relational blow ups caused by a leader who dumped a truck load of truth on someone without the appropriate level of kindness.
Simply remember that the recipient of your truth is a real person, with real feelings. But this leads to pairing #4:
4. Truth must be paired with clarity
This is the corollary of #3.
Being kind as a leader does not mean to water down truth nor to couch truth is so many niceties that clarity is sacrificed.
Jack Welch has wisely observed that “truth is the kindest form of leadership”. It is not an oxymoron to be both kind and clear in your communication.
If you’re committed to being an authentic leader, raise a glass to telling the truth…with the proper pairings.
Because a little discretion, facts, kindness and clarity can take your leadership a long way.
Have you ever handled truth poorly in your leadership?
Originally posted May 1, 2012
There’s nothing quite like proven, reliable experience to help a leader navigate through the toughest of challenges.
But at a recent gathering of the board of The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada, I was reminded of an important quality in leadership that is an essential companion to experience.
It’s the ability to see the world through “young eyes”.
As our meetings concluded, one of the board members closed in prayer by asking God to bless each of these seasoned leaders seated around the table by granting us young eyes with which to view the world.
By this he meant the ability to balance experience with a youthful outlook.
As I reflected on this later, I recognized just how vital a quality this is. And I was reminded too that after years in the trenches, leaders may need to exercise the daily discipline of choosing to view the world through a youthful lens.
But the leadership payoff is worth it. Specifically, if you choose to see the world with young eyes you will develop three distinct advantages:
1. You will develop an exuberant optimism
Along with wisdom and perspective, longevity in leadership can also sometimes bring with it a certain jaded cynicism.
But when you see the world through young eyes you continue to see possibilities in any situation.
2. You will develop endless curiosity
Years of experience can have the unfortunate side effect of causing a leader to view certain outcomes as inevitable.
But choosing to see the world through young eyes creates within you an insatiable curiosity to understand why things are the way they are, and then a refusal to believe things have to stay that way.
3. You will develop stubborn resiliency
Spending years in the trenches of leadership can yield invaluable perspective and understanding.
But with young eyes you can add to this an uncanny ability to rebound from failed attempts.
The paradox is that the more experience you attain in your leadership, the more discipline may be required to maintain this youthful outlook.
But the results are worth the effort.
How do you ensure you continue to see the world through young eyes?
Originally posted May 11, 2012
Take a listen to the conversations taking place in and around your church these days. Are you hearing anything like this?
- “Did you hear what they’re saying about Andy Stanley?”
- “You know, I really think we need more teaching about the end times.”
- “You have to read this email that’s going around. It has a lot to say about the direction of our churches these days.”
If this kind of talk is going on, chances are your church is being infiltrated by Internet Christianity.
During the Innovate leadership forums, The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada’s Tim Schroeder provided valuable coaching on this growing phenomenon, where members of our churches are being swept up in internet-fueled side issues.
In its mildest form, Internet Christianity can deflect a church off its mission. At worst it can cause internal strife and division.
Church leaders must be vigilant to lead decisively against this infiltration by speaking truth boldly and by correcting error clearly and lovingly.
How can you tell if Internet Christianity has infiltrated your church? Watch for these warning signs:
1. Fringe doctrinal issues are gaining a foothold
Be on the lookout for a sudden increase in conversations about topics like the place of sign gifts in the church or the role of women in leadership.
2. Other churches, ministries and pastors are being criticized
Internet Christianity obsesses over the words and actions of well-known Christian leaders.
Were people in your church clucking their tongues over Andy Stanley’s stand on homosexuality? If so, chances are Internet Christianity has crept in to your church.
3. The authority of blogs is replacing the authority of scripture
Don’t think the irony of blogging about this is lost on me.
What I’m talking about here is the growing, concerning trend where people in your church may be taking their direction from a handful of influential bloggers, instead of the scriptures being preached from your own pulpit.
Online resources can obviously be a wonderful tool for the spiritual development of your congregation. But without great discernment it can also lead to distractions and divisions in your church.
Stemming this tide may be one of your highest leadership callings.
How have you responded to the growth of Internet Christianity in your church?
It’s not a lot of time.
But leveraged strategically, 15 minutes invested in self-leadership once or twice a week could begin to jump start your leadership to the next level.
Self-leadership requires a reliable system of:
- Reflection, and
Leaders require the discipline to examine their actions and motivations with ruthless honesty. They require a method to reflect deeply on the implications of that examination, and then they need the fortitude to turn those reflections into concrete, growth-oriented action steps.
How can you do that in your own leadership?
It can begin with 15 minutes.
For close to 20 years I have invested about 15 minutes once or twice a week in strategic self-leadership that has produced significant results.
Here’s what I’ve discovered.
1. Maintain a weekly personal record of your leadership
Since the mid-90’s I have maintained a leadership journal, in which I regularly examine such questions as:
- What is the best leadership I made this week? What made it strong?
- What is the worst leadership decision I made? What made it weak?
- Where is my leadership struggling?
- Where is it gaining traction?
2. Reflect on previous entries
Whenever I update my leadership journal I start by reading what I jotted down one year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and 15 years ago.
Some call this obsessive, if not downright nerdy. But reflecting on my leadership journey has been a key component of my own growth.
3. Hold yourself accountable to make changes
It’s no use having a leadership epiphany if you’re not going to translate those “a-ha moments” into action.
I do that by jotting down what actions I am committing to make as a result of my reflections. Knowing that I will be revisiting my leadership journal in a few days time is a powerful motivator to carry through on my commitment.
As I noted in an earlier post, there can be tremendous spiritual benefits to this practice too.
Give it a shot.
It might be the most strategic 15 minutes you invest each week.
How do you self-leadership from an ideal into a practice?
Originally posted November 4, 2011
Just before you pull the trigger on that change you want to introduce, ask yourself, “Is this worth cashing in my chips?”
Leaders know that they possess a certain number of “change chips”. These chips are made up of credibility, respect, authority, good will and other essential intangible ingredients.
Leaders carry these chips around in their pocket knowing that at the moment when they must introduce change they will have to cash-in some of these chips.
But if you cash these chips in at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons it can make introducing real, meaningful change that much more difficult.
I learned this lesson in a painful way during my first weeks on the job when I served as executive pastor of a large Canadian church.
I led a staff of about 35 people, and soon after I was hired I saw that the office configuration was not optimal. Almost before I had settled into my chair I was moving staff around the facility from one office to another. Because I was the new sheriff in town, the staff dutifully followed my edict. And within a couple of weeks most staff were in new offices which, to me, was a marginal improvement over the previous set up.
But I had cashed in several credibility chips with only a marginal “win” for the organization. I had introduced irritation, confusion and distraction, and the only upside was a slight increase in the ergonomics of the office.
In hindsight I wish I had saved those chips for later on when I needed to call for significant change that could generate meaningful, positive results.
What might this mean for you?
Take a few minutes to actually make a list of the potential changes you’re contemplating. Perhaps it looks something like this…
- Changing the day of the weekly staff meeting,
- Dropping a well-established, but tired, program,
- Introducing new ways for expense reports to be submitted,
- Launching a new product or service.
For each item on your own list, carefully consider the change chips required to be cashed in.
To make lasting, significant change, you may find that you need to keep a few more chips in your pocket!
How have you learned when to cash in your leadership change chips?
Don’t you hate it when you blow it as a leader?
I’m not talking about getting someone’s name wrong. I’m talking about the “How could I have been so stupid, that was the dumbest, most insensitive thing I’ve ever done as a leader!?” kind of blowing it.
One reason leaders sometimes struggle with the apology is that many fall into one of these five apology blunders. If you need to issue an apology, avoid these sorry “sorries”.
1. The “I’m Sorry to Everyone” Apology
An apology should be limited to the person or people directly offended by the offense.
If you wronged a member of your board, you don’t have to apologize to the entire congregation.
2. The “I’m Sorry for Everything” Apology
A friend of mine was asked by his church to issue a public apology for a series of leadership mis-steps, most of which were well beyond his responsibility.
Own your stuff, but don’t own everyone else’s stuff.
3. The “I’m Sorry If…” Apology
Some celebrities and politicians have become masters of this one.
It usually goes like this: “I’m sorry if my drunken behavior caused you any offence…”
We hear the word “sorry”, so we think that was an apology. But it really wasn’t.
Let your “sorry” be “sorry”. Take out the “if”.
4. The “I’m Sorry, But” Apology
Ever heard one like this?
“I’m sorry for being so rude, but I was really tired.”
Again, it sort of sounds like an apology, because it contains the word “sorry”. However, as soon as you insert the word “but”, it really isn’t an apology anymore.
5. The “I’m Sorry…Eventually” Apology
The expression “justice delayed is justice denied” has a cousin; “An apology delayed is an apology denied.”
Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to issue your apology. Own up as soon as reasonably possible.
Let’s face it. If you’re in leadership for any length of time, you will blow it at some point. And you will need to issue an apology.
But by avoiding these sorry “sorries” you can make your road back to credibility much smoother.
What have you learned about saying “sorry” in your leadership?
Originally posted January 18, 2013
You stroll into your lead team or board meeting, looking to build consensus for your new idea.
Let’s say your dream is to launch a new Saturday night service, held twice a month, full of contemporary praise music, designed with a youth focus.
Two hours later you emerge, bewildered at what took place. Somehow your new service idea changed from Saturday to Sunday, from twice a month to twice a year, from contemporary praise to traditional hymns, and from a youth focus to a multi-generational approach.
Instead of building consensus, you settled for compromise.
With consensus everyone builds positively on the idea until a grander vision is attained. Compromise, on the other hand, is a negative process of stripping the core of an idea apart until the finished product is viewed with equal ambivalence.
How can you lead your team towards consensus instead of compromise?
1. Have the “meetings before the meeting”
Never let your key influencers hear a new idea for the first time in a group meeting. Take each one out for coffee individually and run the idea by them. Use their input to improve the idea before it gets presented.
2. Keep the main thing, the main thing
Certain members of your team may be naturally wired to dive into detail and minutia far too soon. They might even support the goals of the initiative, but they’ll nonetheless start redesigning the plan at the first opportunity. Don’t let this happen. Keep the meeting at the 30,000 foot level.
3. Remember that consensus is a process, not an event
Gauge the level of buy-in throughout the initial meeting. You might find that consensus is achieved very quickly and painlessly.
Or, you might find that consensus will need to be built over a period of time. If the opinions and perspectives are simply too wide spread in the first meeting for consensus to be reached simply take the conversation as far as needed, then set it aside for another day.
Let time be your ally, not your enemy.
So keep your team focused on the big picture and allow them to dream alongside you.
In the end you’ll end up not only with greater buy-in, but with a grander team vision.
How do you build consensus with your team?
Effective leaders are constantly on the lookout for “Roman Roads” in their vicinity.
Because they know that the sooner they identify their Roman Road, the sooner their message can start spreading with increased velocity.
A Roman Road can best be defined as an accelerator for a movement or message you’re seeking to spread. It is usually characterized by:
- Having a pre-existing infrastructure,
- Having been developed by others,
- Having a distinct, separate purpose,
- Being able to be re-purposed to carry your message.
The original Roman Roads were used by the Apostle Paul to carry the message of the Christian faith throughout Europe. These roads were already in place before Paul arrived; they had been developed by the Romans, were designed to serve and unite the Roman Empire, but were easily adapted as a means to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today, effective leaders continually scan around, looking their own system of Roman Roads. Consider these examples I came across on my trip through Asia, New Zealand and Australia:
- The churches in China who have taken advantage of the phenomenal spread of the internet throughout the country to spread the message of Jesus Christ. For the Church in China, the World Wide Web has become the Roman Roads.
- The churches in Hong Kong who, because of exorbitant real estate prices, are often forced to hold services in office buildings. In many cases this has provided them with immediate accessibility and profile they might not achieve in a traditional church building. For the Church in Hong Kong, the very high rises that dominate the landscape have become the Roman Roads.
- The churches in Australia who have accepted the invitation of the government to provide Chaplains for all of the public primary and high schools in the country. For the Church in Australia, the invitation into public school system is a Roman Road.
Do you have a message that needs to be spread quickly? Your best play might very well not involve creating a vast communications network. It could very well already exist.
Just look for your nearest Roman Road.
What Roman Road network have you used to carry your message?
Originally posted December 16, 2011
There is a growing trend among many churches to apply a false formula in many aspects of the budgeting process. I call it the “If Just One Person” false logic.
If you’ve found yourself falling into this trend you need to:
- Be aware of the trend,
- Recognize why the logic is faulty,
- Know how to respond.
1. Be aware of the trend
This trend typically unfolds in this manner. During the budgeting process someone will notice an unusually large dollar figure attached to a new or unproven outreach initiative.
The defender of the line item will then apply this logic. “Hey, if even one person makes a decision for Christ, then every penny will have been worth it!”
While I’m using outreach as an example, the same reasoning pops up in other budget discussions too, such as:
- If just one person takes a big step towards God…
- If just one person starts reading the Bible regularly…
- If just one person invites someone far from God into their home…
2. Recognize why the logic is faulty
In reality there is a dangerous false economy at work here. Suppose, for example, the outreach line item is for $20,000 and it is being justified on the “If Just One Person” logic. But could there have been a far more effective outreach initiative which, for that same $20,000, could have seen 10 people come to Christ? Or 20? Or 100?
3. Know how to respond
When this logic is raised in your budgeting circles the key is to match the sincere value with a discussion of equally valid competing values such as the stewardship value and the wisdom value.
Have the courage to point out that even in an abundance economy (recognizing that God does indeed “own the cattle on a thousand hills”), there is still a leadership responsibility at play which requires a maximum return on each Kingdom dollar.
Why is this a big deal?
As a church leader you have a responsibility to ensure that each dollar is being applied for maximum Kingdom impact.
So be on the lookout for the “If Just One Person” false logic. If you speak into it in a timely, gracious but clear manner the Kingdom win can be huge.
How do you respond to the “If Just One Person” logic?
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
1 Corinthians 15:14
- Your leadership development
- Your vision
- Your team building
- Your bold initiative
- Your upcoming staff retreat
- Your registration at the Global Leadership Summit
- Your blog subscription list
- Your Twitter account followers
- Your upcoming speaking gig
- Your next sermon
- Your last sermon
- Your courage
- Your vulnerability
If Christ has not been raised, NONE of it matters.
But Christ HAS been raised. So it all CAN matter.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
For many Christ followers, Good Friday is merely the warm-up act to the main event; Easter Sunday. But I believe there is tremendous “soul-filling” value for leaders in focusing on a key moment in the Good Friday narrative.
It starts by looking at two critical “walks” that God took with his people.
The first walk took place in the Garden of Eden, where Genesis records how God would walk in the garden with Adam “in the cool of the day.” Imagine how much God must have enjoyed those times, simply strolling with His people, just doing life together.
But the next “walk” we read about takes place in a very different reality. God was about to lead Moses and the Israelites on a 40-year walk through the wilderness. But the presence of sin meant that God would not be able to enjoy the kind of communion he enjoyed in Eden.
Instead, God instructed Moses to:
Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman…The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26: 31–33)
That curtain came to symbolize the separation between God and his people.
But on Good Friday, everything changed. At the moment where our Savior cried out, “It is finished!” we read that:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 26:51)
It was as if God reached down out of heaven, took hold of that symbol of separation and ripped it apart with his bare hands! In that moment God was declaring, “No more separation! With the sacrifice of My beloved Son, communion is restored. We will once again walk together, just as we did back in Eden.”
As followers of Christ we live in the power of the resurrection, making Easter Sunday a day completely worthy of celebration.
But on Good Friday, let me urge you to take time to remember the ripping apart of the veil. For it was in that moment that God declared for all time that you and I would walk together with Him, “in the cool of the day.”.
For Christian leaders, that’s the walk that keeps us going
Originally posted June 1, 2012
When it comes to building your church’s leadership teams, do you recruit or do you cultivate?
Every church faces the reality that it might soon need two new elders, three deacons, a new head of the finance committee, and so on. But while some churches scramble to “fill these slots”, others simply continue to cultivate and develop leaders in the congregation, guiding them toward next steps in their leadership journey.
The difference is intentionality.
Admittedly, my own church used to be far more stuck in the “recruiter” mode. At times we were so desperate to fill slots it we joked that we might need to offer a free set of steak knives to sweeten the offer.
But today we are getting much better at replacing recruitment with cultivation.
These have been our key learnings along the way:
1. Key leadership roles should never be filled with a “cold call”
If you’ve ever uttered the words in a phone call, “Hey Mary…ever thought about being an elder?” you are doing the church equivalent of selling vacuums door to door.
2. Identifying leaders should be happening constantly
Another elder and I had coffee this week with a young woman in our church about to graduate from university. My prediction is that she could be on the church board in 5-7 years. Starting this week we put her on an intentional development plan.
3. Start talking about a specific role by not talking about a specific role
When you’re ready to begin a dialogue which might lead to a specific leadership role, it should start at a much higher level. It should be a continued conversation about the church, that person’s vision, and so on. Discussing a specific role too soon can lead to awkward back-peddling later on.
4. Allow time for God to do His work
Following an early discussion with a potential candidate, have a follow-up meeting to discuss a specific role. There must be plenty of margin in the process for prayer and consideration.
If you find yourself scrambling to “fill slots”, take the time to introduce greater intentionality to build a culture of leadership cultivation.
It could save you a fortune in steak knives.
How have you developed a culture of cultivation in your church?
Originally posted July 17,2012
“Our small group curriculum is too much fluff!”
“I can never find out what’s going on around the church!”
“Why do we sing so many old hymns?!”
If you’re a church leader, you’ve likely heard each of these complaints, or some variation on these themes.
The point is, as a leader (and especially as a church leader), dealing with complaints is part of the territory. What’s important is how you deal with them, and even more so, how you don’t deal with them.
Here are three vital “don’ts” when it comes to dealing with complainers.
1. Don’t take on every complaint yourself
A common mistake made by inexperienced leaders is to assume that simply because someone brought a complaint to your attention, that it now becomes your problem to solve.
Instead, listen politely, discern the nature of the concern, and immediately point the person toward the person on the team best equipped to respond.
2. Don’t get defensive
Effective leaders know that even within the shrillest sounding complaint, there can be a kernel of truth worth listening to. But if your skin is so thin that you immediately reject any complaint out of hand you can miss out on information that could help you improve your leadership or the ministry of your church.
Learn to look for the nuggets of truth contained within any complaint.
3. Don’t miss out on a teaching moment
When a complaint comes forward, even one laced with sarcasm and hurtful language, you have an opportunity and responsibility to coach and correct.
First, deal with the content of the complaint in whatever appropriate manner you choose.
Then, separate out the tone or manner with which the complaint was brought forward. If it was presented in a respectful manner, affirm and reinforce that tone.
But if the complaint was presented in a mean-spirited, hurtful manner, deal with that. Deal with that clearly and unequivocally. To let such behavior go unchallenged will only lead to more problems in the future.
Complaints happen. And as a leader in the local church you will deal with them more often than you’d probably want to.
And so since you can’t avoid them, you might as well grow through them.
What leadership lessons have you learned in dealing with complainers?
China is a land of remarkable contrasts and contradictions.
And as my current trip through China has reminded me, these contrasts are also to be found in the Church.
As mentioned in my last blog, China has more than 100 million Christians and prints more bibles than anywhere else in the world. Yet in some ways, this centre of explosive church life is still in its infancy.
But despite these contradictions, there are at least 3 key reminders that leaders in the so-called “western Church” can take from the church in China:
1. The church must adapt to changing social and economic conditions
In China’s less developed, agrarian areas, the church’s traditional role has been in ministering to the needs of the poor. But in the increasing wealth in urban centres countries often experience growth in social problems such as divorce, substance abuse, and juvenile crime. The church in China is preparing to respond.
Leadership question- How relevantly is your church responding to the changing landscape of your community?
2. The church can flourish in a challenging environment
Let’s face it; there are elements of China’s cultural and political history that have represented unique challenges to the church.
But the church is flourishing nonetheless.
Leadership question- Do you ever use local opposition as an excuse for your church not flourishing?
3. For the sake of the gospel, churches need to find a way to work together
This is a huge can of worms to open, but in short, the church is segmented in China into two significant groups; the registered church, and the unregistered (or “house”) church.
I won’t begin to unpack the very complicated dynamics surrounding this grouping, but one thing is clear; the greater Kingdom cause would be better served by a unified expression of the local church.
Leadership question- Is there a church leader in your community with whom you need to build, or repair, a relational bridge?
To be clear, the church in China is in its early stages of development, but I believe it is on a journey that could change the face of Christendom in our lifetime.
But along the way, let’s be sure to capture leadership lessons vital to the church in our part of the world too.
Is this your view of the Church in China?
A group of Christians are huddled up in their home, curtains drawn, secretly holding a bible study by candlelight; fearful that at any moment the authorities could burst in, confiscate their bible, and toss them in jail.
While there may have been a semblance of truth to that scene in China’s distant past, and while pockets of China still find it a challenge to live out the Christian faith, today the Church in China is experiencing explosive growth.
I am completing the first week of this trip to China, and I continue to be blown away by what God is up to here.
In particular, here are 4 surprising truths you should know about today’s China.
1. There are more bibles printed in, and distributed from, China than anywhere else in the world.
2. There are an estimated 100 million Christians in China; more than there are members of the Communist party.
3. There are more than 55,000 registered churches in China. This does not include the tens of thousands of house churches.
4. The most pressing need for the church in China is for leaders.
With all this growth in the church, there hasn’t been a corresponding growth in leadership development. Therefore the same problem Moses faced in Exodus 18 is hitting these leaders; they’re trying to do it all alone.
In one particular church of 8000 people there is a single pastor carrying out the entire ministry.
But these pastors are hungry to develop leadership skills in order to keep pace with all of this growth. They want to raise up new leaders from their congregations and see their people fired up to provide effective leadership throughout their church and community.
If this need resonates with you, please pray for these leaders, that they would receive the leadership training they need.
And pray for us in the Willow Creek Association, as we go about the task of equipping these leaders by bringing the Global Leadership Summit to more and more cities in China.
We are always looking for churches who can help us in this work; if you think your church is up to the challenge, let’s connect.
There’s plenty of exciting work to be done.
Want to kill all the fun you could be having in leadership?
Just fall into the comparison trap.
Because nothing kills the fun of leadership faster than comparison.
I saw this played out in a funny way today here in China.
I’m in this fascinating country for two weeks, visiting Christian leaders and today we had the thrill of taking a high-speed bullet train from Shanghai to NanJing. Inside the car a readout board continued to update our traveling speed.
Later that day we took the train back to Shanghai.
But much to our dismay, the top speed this train reached was a measly 264 km/h.
The people I was riding with kept joking, “What a rip off! 264 km/h?! I could WALK faster! This morning we topped 300!”
We were kidding around, but even in the joking I winced at the leadership truth being revealed; comparison kills leadership fun. As soon as you start comparing your church size with Saddleback, start comparing your preaching ability with Andy Stanley, or your leadership horsepower with Bill Hybels, it just puts a downer on everything.
Specificially, comparison kills leadership fun in 3 ways:
1. It robs you of celebrating your wins
Our train home was doing 264 km/h! And that wasn’t fast enough?
When you start comparing, as an example, congregation sizes, you begin focusing on the people you DON’T have in your church, rather than the one’s God HAS brought.
And that’s no fun.
2. It positions colleagues as competitors
It’s hard to come alongside, support and have fun with someone you’re secretly envying.
Can I let you in on a secret? That other leader has problems too.
3. It takes your eyes off of things that really matter
Our train home was on a different route than the morning trip, and despite being slower it actually got us back quicker than the morning trip.
We were measuring speed. We should have been focused on time.
When you compare, you can miss out genuine progress because you’re focused on the wrong stuff.
Bottom line; if you’ve fallen into the comparison rut, cut it out. That’s just a leadership fun killer.
I’m sure your leadership train is doing just fine.
How do you keep yourself from leadership comparisons?
The balloons are set.
The streamers and decorations are ready to go.
You and your staff are about to par-tay!
And if you’re not careful, you could actually be about to put a ding in your organization’s culture.
Because even a party needs to be rooted in a plan.
The truth is that celebrations can be an integral part of your culture-building plan. Celebrations of organizational wins can underscore team values, can affirm strong performance and can simply inject a tone of pure fun.
But beware. There are at least 4 potential pitfalls of an ill-conceived celebration that can do more organizational harm than good.
1. The “celebrating too soon blunder”
Reserve your celebration for big deals; for significant wins. If you make everything a big deal, then nothing’s a big deal.
If you start having a parade each time someone hits a single, then a grand slam won’t seem quite as noteworthy
2. The “wrong-presenter fiasco”
It really matters who hands out the “way to go” accolades.
Sometimes the point leader prefers to maintain a low profile, or simply wants to allow a second-in-command a moment in the limelight.
But if an accomplishment being recognized is a big deal, it needs to be acknowledged by a big leader.
3. The “celebration-delayed faux-pas”
Celebrating organizational wins can be a lot of work. Some organizations save on the hassle by having just one big celebration per year; kind of a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
But a celebration delayed saps the accomplishment of any sense of significance.
If you’re going to acknowledge a win, do it as soon as is practically possible.
4. The “disconnected celebration blooper”
If you want to be strategic about shaping your culture, connect your celebrations with your values.
For example, if you value organizational integrity, celebrate the fact that your team completed a project when they committed to; on time and on budget.
Don’t squander a celebration on a non-value based accomplishment.
The culture of your church or organization isn’t a chance occurrence. It is a direct result of the values you do, or do not, celebrate.
So choose the culture you want and celebrate the wins that will reinforce those cultural values.
But celebrate wisely.
Because even a party needs to be rooted in a plan.
How do you leverage celebrations to build your culture?