I’ve been in ministry full time for over 17 years and I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. The church I worked at went from single site in a small town to a major relocation to a bigger facility to multi-site now with five locations. I was involved with leading the relocation of two of the sites from a portable campus to a permanent site. Now I’m working for a church that is in the process of becoming a multi-site church.
I’ve been a part of a lot of change and challenges over the years. I’ve grown as a leader and I’ve struggled as a leader. I believe there are some basic things that help a lot in ministry, do these basics well and you will lead well.
Here are seven things I’ve learned and believe about leadership.
- Relationships are more important than Systems – Effective, well thought out systems are vital to an organizations health, but people are more important. Every person that attends our church is important, and every person that does not attend our church is important. Each person matters to God and so they must matter to us. When going through explosive growth it’s easy to miss the relational part of ministry. That is when you must work hard to meet with people and listen to them. I have learned so much by simply meeting with people and listening to them. listening to their story and sharing parts of yours is so important when building relationships.
- Communicate with your team often – Even when there is nothing new to report, it’s important to communicate with your team on a regular basis. As a leader, I wake up every day thinking about what needs to happen to get us to where we are headed. The volunteers I am leading have many other things to think about, like their own jobs and families. The more I can communicate about what is going on, the better my relationship with the people I lead. Open honest communication builds trust, it also motivates and encourages and allows people to ask clarifying questions. When you don’t communicate, you are still communicating, and that’s when people start loosing interest, or fill in the blanks themselves.
- Trust that God is working in ways you do not see – In ministry, things don’t always line up like you would like them to be. As a leader, I am responsible for my own actions and to make plans and develop strategy. It is also my responsibility to be flexible and to include God in everything. The deeper my trust in God the stronger my faith grows. If we figure everything out on our own, we don’t need God to show up. When you take on a big vision, only God can make it happen, we need to trust and obey.
- Trust the leaders around you – I must choose to trust and not to be suspicious of the leaders above me and around me. The more I choose to trust the more my heart remains in the right place. When I start to fill in the blanks with my own ideas, I begin to head into a downward spiral. When I believe the best about the people leading me, I can then lead with integrity and passion. Trust builds a culture of emotional health and stability. It’s also important that you are trustworthy, and lead well in the area entrusted to you. This becomes even more important, and difficult as you add multiple sites. You are not as close to the leaders as you used to be so trust becomes vital to moving things forward in a healthy way.
- Do more than rally the troops – You must do more than talk the talk, you need to walk the walk and make things happen. That means doing what you say and equipping your volunteers to do what they are asked to do. It means taking the time to develop people rather than just direct people. When you build meaningful relationships with people they will follow you through the most difficult of times. When you pay attention to the details and delegate to people that can get things done, your influence goes up. Don’t just try to pump people up, pour into them and love them. The only way to do that is by allowing God to pour into you and to keep growing as a leader.
- You have to be real – People are looking for real leaders that admit their mistakes and take responsibility. Be quick to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness and extend the same to others. Don’t put on the religious mask, where you try to make people think that everything is just perfect. Being real is only possible if you are sure of your identity, and comfortable with who you are. I have learned that I need to be me and not someone I think people want. The more I am the person God created me to be the more influence God gives me.
- Be as clear as possible – Clarity is one of the most difficult things to do as a leader. It is easy to dance around the issues and not give direct answers. Sometimes there are things that I just cannot share with people, so I need to be honest about that and let them know that I will share details when I can. To be clear as a leader means taking time to think about what you are going to say. It means you can’t just shoot from the hip, but take time to aim before delivering the message. Being clear is a way of honoring people and letting them know you care. Whether it’s in an email, in a meeting or face to face be honest about what is happening or what happened. Share as much information as possible. That will build trust and respect.
When things are changing all around me and the pace seems to be higher than what I can stand, it helps to step back, and trust God and obey what he tells me. When things are busy and hectic I need to make sure that I am praying and communicating with God. I also need to be reading the Bible to build my intimacy with God and get wisdom and direction. One thing that has helped me in this area and many others is having people in my life to ask me how I am doing in some of these areas. Having accountability in my life has brought growth and freedom into my life.
It’s the most generous time of the year. For many people Christmas time is a time to be generous with family, friends and even strangers. It’s also the end of the year and people are thinking of year end giving. I want to talk about generosity and what that really means.
As a follower of Jesus one of my desires is to be known as a generous person. Jesus was very generous with his time, talent and treasure. He taught many life-changing messages and stories about being generous. He even gave his life for our sins.
Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us. There are several key traits that go into making someone generous. Without these in our lives we cannot be truly generous.
- Loving – It is not possible to have love without generosity, but it is possible to have generosity without love. If you have the love of Christ in you, then generosity should flow out of you. It should be a part of your nature to be generous and look for ways to give and serve others. 1 John 3:17 says “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
- Sowing – Generosity follows the law of the harvest. The more generous we are in sowing, the greater will be our harvest in true riches. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
- Honoring – Honor means “to place value upon.” We are instructed in Ephesians 6:12 to honor our parents. We honor civil authorities by paying taxes and following laws. When we give to the poor, we honor the Lord and He promises to repay. Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Generosity is not just giving, it is giving abundantly or joyfully.
- Grace – It is through God’s grace that we are able to give and be generous, and that giving is an expression of the grace we have in Christ Jesus.
- Stewardship – A steward is one who is entrusted with the assets of the master and is responsible to make wise investments with them. A wise steward understands that the assets he has under his control do not belong to him and should be returned to the master with increase. We are stewards of all the people, possessions, abilities and talents that God has blessed us with.
Generosity brings light into a dark world. It makes people smile and feel good. Generosity also draws us closer to God because it’s when we are most like Him. Giving also reminds us that God owns it all and that He is the one that can give us more or take it all away. Being generous also breaks the bondage of greed and overcomes the love of money.
Here are some simple steps to help you be more generous:
- Dedicate everything to God – This includes all your money, time, possessions, strength, abilities, and relationships. Truly acknowledge that God owns it all. That takes a lot of pressure off of us.
- Practice living simply – Try to simplify your life. This could mean selling or giving away some of your stuff. It might mean giving up some luxury items so that you can live at or below your income. It may mean saying no to some things in order to say yes to being more generous.
- Give as God directs – The goal of generosity is to demonstrate the love of God so that others will be drawn to Him. Start being generous by doing random acts of kindness. You can also start giving to your local church. Consider giving a percentage of your income. Start giving your time by volunteering at your church, in the community or at a non-profit.
So how generous are you? Do you see God as the provider of all wealth? Do you see yourself as a steward of God’s resources? Do you honor God with a generous portion of all His increase in your life? Are you living as frugally as you can so you have more to invest in God?
Generosity is the result of focusing on God’s riches rather than our resources. CS Lewis said this “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”
Ask God for opportunities to be generous and see what happens.
Most people want to be generous and help those in need. The reality is most people do not give much. Most people also understand that’s it’s important to save money. The reality is most people don’t save much money either. So what’s the problem? Part of it may be understanding the world better. Also part of it is not having a plan.
Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale gave this example of putting the people of the world into perspective. Let’s look at the world as made up of just 100 people:
- 70 of them don’t know Jesus. 30 do.
- 30 are white. 70 are some other color.
- 51 are women, 49 are men.
- 80 live in substandard housing, meaning they have no electricity, running water, inside plumbing or a roof over their head.
- 50 are malnourished. Their food is not satisfying, not enough and doesn’t provide proper nutrition.
- 70 can’t read.
- 1 is dying as you read this-a little kid under the age of 10. He’s dying because he can’t get enough to eat.
- 6 have a significant portion of the world’s wealth.
- 6 live in the United States.
- What if you’re the dad of the kid who’s dying of malnourishment? Wouldn’t you be asking one of the 6 wealthy to share a little for your child? Unfortunately, the answer all too often is: there’s other things to do with our money, new things to buy.
Most Americans spend their money this way:
- 24% on housing
- 19% on health care
- 22% on recreation and personal needs
- 15% for food
- 17% for transportation
- Leaving 3% for other such as giving or saving
Most people want to make a difference but are either too far in debt to be generous or have good intentions but don’t plan in advance to be generous or even to save.
So here are some tips on how you can Save more and Give more:
- Save second and Give to God first. When we give first, then save some we don’t spend money on those unimportant things that we don’t think about. The fancy coffee, the extra soda, the fast food.
- Use an automatic transfer at your bank. Transfer money out of your checking account into a savings account after every paycheck. You can also set up automatic giving to your church either through your bank or through your church.
- Be consistent. If you save money every other week for a year it adds up quickly, same goes for giving. If you give consistently every week and not just when your in church you end up being more generous.
- You might want to have multiple savings accounts you transfer money into. One should be an emergency account, another could be to purchase your next vehicle or other large item and another could be for a down payment on a house.
- You might even set up a saving account at a different bank to make it harder to get to and more out of mind. When you don’t see the money in your checking account or in your wallet you won’t spend it.
- When you get a raise or a bonus put that money in savings, give some away or pay off debt.
- Pray about saving and giving. Ask God to give you wisdom with your finances and guidance on how to spend what He has entrusted to you.
- When an opportunity to give comes along if you’ve been saving money you can pull from your savings and give and not have to take money out of your budget.
- Plan in advance where you want to give each year. Give to your local church first. I recommend 10% of your gross income as a target. Then plan what other non-profits you have a heart for and what you would like to give to them for the year. Then plan to use money from savings or budget to give to things that come up that you would like to support like girl scouts, youth group, pizza fund raisers etc.
- When you payoff debt add that extra money to your savings and give some away. Or if you are able to save some money on expenses increase your giving or your saving.
Being generous feels good and helps make the world a better place. Saving is a healthy practice and helps you to be more generous. Start today by choosing a couple of these tips and put them into practice.
I’d like to share a story with you about two explorers:
Explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott competed to be the first to lead their teamon an expedition to the South Pole in October 1911. The 1400 mile trip was challenging, and temperatures often reached 20 degrees below zero even during the summer. The terrain was uncertain and unforgiving. The modern communication we rely upon was non-existent. If things went badly, rescue was very unlikely. Amundsen led his explorers to safety and victory, but Scott’s expedition led to defeat. The difference in the leaders’ expeditions was wisdom.
Amundsen spent years rigorously preparing for the journey. He learned how to handle polar conditions, and he lived with Eskimos to learn how they survived, what they wore, and how they moved. He studied every possible scenario. Amundsen designed the entire journey to reduce the likelihood of chance events. He carried enough extra supplies to be able to miss every single supply depot and still go another 100 miles, but Scott risked running low on supplies. Amundsen stored three tons of supplies for five men; Scott had only one ton for 17 men. Amundsen brought four thermometers, but Scott brought only one. Amundsen used sled dogs, based on the wisdom of the Eskimos. Scott used unproven motor sledges and ponies. The sleds failed, and the ponies died. Amundsen was famous for his “20 Mile March” wisdom, having a set distance the team had to travel daily no matter the circumstances. Scott let the weather determine when his team moved. Amundsen trained his body and mind with rigorous discipline, but Scott’s preparation was limited. He made plans based on his own intuition and opinions, not on direct research of the environment he was entering.
On December 15, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole. They planted the flag and went right back to work. They reached home base on January 25th, the exact day he planned. Eight months later, a British reconnaissance party found the frozen bodies of Scott and his last two teammates in a snow covered tent just eleven miles short of his supply station. The entire team had perished. Scott’s lack of wisdom led to defeat.
There was a pretty big difference between the two explorers right. Amundsen was much better prepared for the journey than Scott. Why was he more prepared?
- He spent years preparing himself and his team – Always remember that to take on something important, something big we have to prepare for it. We have to practice and work on our skills. So whatever we want to do in life start preparing now. We are always preparing for something, when we stop growing and preparing we often miss opportunities or make critical mistakes and failures.
- He also learned as much as he could about the South Pole – This is a reminder for all of us to always keep learning and growing. The most successful people in life are the ones that are life-long learners. So just because you are out of school doesn’t mean you stop learning. Keep reading books, keep studying things you are interested in. Keep stretching yourself. There is always something new to learn.
- He planned for chance events – He knew that there were lots of things out of his control, like the weather. He had to be flexible when things went wrong. No matter how much you plan there are always things that can go wrong. Life has lots of ups and downs, so we need to prepare for those things by making wise decisions and having some backup plans. Amundson packed extra supplies and took more than he needed in case things did not go as planned. In life things often do not go as planned, so prepare to be flexible.
- He talked to people that knew more than he did, the Eskimos – We can also learn a lot from other people that have gone before us that are older or more experienced than us. Ask questions and learn from people that have been doing the things we want to do. Where I work at a church we go to other churches that are bigger than us, more experienced than us and ask them questions and try to learn what is working for them.
- He had a system and was disciplined – he planned to go 20 miles every day no matter what. He learned what worked then he stuck with it and followed the plan. Self-discipline is important because we often have to do things we don’t enjoy. To accomplish good things in life we need to work hard, stay focused and stick with it.
- Amundson used wisdom to succeed – Wisdom is accurately applying knowledge and clear judgement to life situations
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. King Solomon – wrote most of the book of Proverbs. That’s a great place to start in seeking wisdom. If you haven’t read Proverbs start today. Make is a practice to read through the 31 chapters of Proverbs a couple of times a year.
We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy. Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life. If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God. The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.
Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life. It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits. So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.
- Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural. It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be. Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly. It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
- Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
- Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
- When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
- After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
- Prayer – How’s your prayer life? Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth. For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything. Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people. Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first. Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle. Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people. When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
- Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind. It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father. I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days. I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it. There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
- Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice. You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion. Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
- Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today. I use my Bible App on my phone a lot. There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible. Don’t take on too much but be consistent. Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first. Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
- Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word. This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own. Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
- Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something? A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it. Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together. Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same. When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
- Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart. It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time. Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God. It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
- Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything. In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves. Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people. Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives. Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again. Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love. Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy. When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
- Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with. But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with. It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to. It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive. A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories. We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.
I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life. I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines. If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.