Tag Archives: leadership

The Vulnerable Pastor

Vulnerable. Not the first word that comes to mind when you think about strong leaders. Yet, this word, “Vulnerable,” is what Mandy Smith, lead pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, suggests should characterize strong Christian leaders.

In The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry Smith attempts to debunk current leadership wisdom as not only being harmful, but impossible. The image51s4het-oll-_sy344_bo1204203200_ of somebody who is always strong, always has their stuff together, is never wrong, never wavers, and is extremely self-confident is the exact opposite of what Smith suggest Christian leaders should be like. Instead a Christian leader should be marked by vulnerability. Specifically, this vulnerability should recognize and understand our human constraints. Recognizing these constraints makes our ministry more sustainable “and guards us against disillusionment and burnout.”

As the former director of a college ministry in a large church in the LA area I knew I could benefit from reading Smith’s book. I sort of live in the “mega-church” world, which is mostly characterized by the leadership images Smith decries. I constantly struggled, despite pressing on in ministry, with the notion that I didn’t fit the “pastor-mold.” I still struggle with it! Even though its never expressed, it is implicitly there. I’m just not one of those pastors. I’m shy, introverted, intellectual, liturgical. Again, not your typical mega-church type leader. Throughout the book Smith shares her struggles with not fitting the mold. Told mostly in story form, she expresses how difficult it was to be herself as leader, when the world (i.e. CHURCH WORLD) told her that wasn’t enough. It was only when she was bold enough to admit that she didn’t have what the world asked of her, and she didn’t need to have it, that she began to find joy in her ministry.

Here are some helpful quotes from her book:

When we’re at our desks preparing our sermons and something snags our hearts, can we set aside our work long enough to be worked upon? Can we trust that the teaching of our congregations is not primarily our work but God’s work, which he wants to being with us? (92)

What if we began with our human limitations and shaped a ministry from that? Like a child pouring pennies on a candy store counter, asking, “How much candy can I get with that?” we can look at the time, gifts, energy, and ideas we have and ask, “How much church can we get with that?” (105)

If it’s right for me to be here (and I beliee it its) and it’s alright for me to be limited (and I believe it its), I have to trust that there’s a way to do this job without it destroying me. If he gave the church to humans, he must have a way for humans to do church. (105) 

One way I equip my leaders is to remind them it’s their job to equip others. We’re not soloists; we’re choirmasters. Its not our job to do the work but to give the direction: to pick the note, choose when to start and wait for the community to shape the fullness of the song. (108)

All in all, I found this book quite helpful. There were so many positive messages in it that I needed to hear once again. Being a pastor, or any kind of Christian leader, is not about being enough…. Its about being willing to revel in our own weakness and in God’s strength.

Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.


Johnny Mac on Developing Leaders

Now – if you know me, you know that I am not John MacArthur’s biggest fan. (Surprise surprise!) However, this short video by him about leadership development is so good, I can’t help but share it. MacArthur is absolutely right, strong churches will have a huge influence for God in this world, but strong churches begin with strong leaders…

Missions Insights with Dr. John MacArthur: Why Invest in Training National Pastors? from TMAI on Vimeo.

Strong and Weak

Strong or weak? Which would you rather be? The answer seems like a no brainer – DUH – strong of course! Andy Crouch, author of the classic book Culture Making, says that if we want to truly flourish (and if we want to be effective leaders) we must embrace both. We must be Strong and Weak.

Strong vs. Weak – Big vs. Little – Young vs. Old

Crouch’s thesis is quite simple, weakness and strength are not opposites. They are actually meant to be held together simultaneously. When we learn this forgotten truth, then we will truly be able to be the people we were made to be. This is a countercultural message. Most people would say embrace strength and hide weakness. On the other hand there have been some that have recently been calling for a return to “vulnerability” masked as public weakness (though this is often a power play trading on the act of manipulation).

If you look at the life of Jesus you will see both strength and weakness. Exaltation and humiliation. Ascension and crucifixion. In fact when we celebrate Easter we actually celebrate this paradox of weakness and strength. It was in the moment of greatest weakness and vulnerability (the cross) that the almighty Son of God was coronated. Easter celebrates the King’s Cross.

In this short book Crouch explores cultural conceptions of strength and weakness. He exposes false weakness and authoritative strength. He encourages hidden vulnerability, that is the willingness to bear burdens and expose ourselves to risks that one one else can fully understand (25). He shows us that if we want to truly be strong we need to be willing to enter into brokenness, whether our own or the suffering of others. Only once we embrace this hidden vulnerability and descent into suffering will we be able to be the kind of people who can be entrusted with true power. Power that is both vulnerable and authoritative – weak and strong.

41xwtnbrpyl-_sx343_bo1204203200_The book is filled with powerful stories, the story of Angela is brought me to tears – especially since my wife and I just had our first daughter. Stories of racism and of Crouch’s own selfishness really bring the message home. But the story that underlies all of this, though its never made too explicit, is the story of Jesus – the Gospel. The Gospel is what shows us what it means to be both Strong and Weak….

Overall I would highly recommend this book for leaders. Embracing both of these “virtues” is critical to leadership. In fact there are a few leaders in my ministry to whom I will have them read some of the chapters in this book.

Jim Collins – Seven Questions: Beyond Good to Great – GLS15

Jim Collins – THE Jim Collins – asks us 7 questions that help us move from “Good to Great” and beyond great.

Global Leadership Summit

1-What Cause do you serve with Level 5 Ambition?

  1. The essence of leadership is service – service to people/cause
  2. Ambition channeled outwards to a cause/something bigger/more important than we are
  3. Level 4 leaders inspire people to follow them but Level 5 leaders inspire people to follow a cause.
  4. Infuse your enterprise with some greater purpose – commitment to service is not a sector choice but a life choice.
    1. To serve is to live.

2-Will you settle for being a good leader or will you grow to become a great leader?

  1. Leadership is not personality, position, power.
  2. Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done. – Eisenhower
    1. You need to know what must be done
    2. Its an art.
      1. Most great leaders GROW into their leadership – they don’t start that way

3-How can you reframe failure as Growth in pursuit of a BHAG?

  1. “I am not failing, I’m growing…”
  2. What is the other side of the coin of success? Its not failure, its growth.
  3. Have you ever felt a profound sense of inadequacy? If so – how do you reframe that for growth?

4-How can you help others succeed?

  1. We succeed and are at our very best when we help others succeed.
  2. Three Key things
    1. Service, Success, Growth
    2. If you could build a culture that has service/cause/purpose that you are willing to sacrifice for and has challenges in the forms of BHAGS that help you grown, and communal success – that is how you build meaning.

5-Have you found your Hedgehog – your personal hedgehog?

  1. Three circles: Passion, What You Are Made For, Economic Engine
  2. When you lead out of your hedgehog – you lead out of the wellspring that allows you to persist.
  3. True creators stay in the game. We cannot control/predict every hand we get dealt in life.
    1. Refuse to leave the game – play every hand you get to the best of your ability.
  4. How many of you have in some point in life just been flat out decked? That’s when you have to stay in the game.

6-Will you build your unit – your minibus – into a pocket of greatness?

  1. How did the good-to-great leaders do it? They didn’t focus on their career? They focused on their “unit” and developing their unit around them.
  2. Being a “first-to” leader not a “first-what” leader. Figure out who should be in the key seats in the bus.
  3. Be rigorous – not ruthless. Take care of your people.
  4. Take care of your people not your career.
  5. Greatest leaders – find a way to make an impact and contribution on PEOPLE

7-How will you change the lives of others?

  1. How will some people’s lives be better and different because you were here on this earth?
  2. Life is people…. Be useful

Building “Teams that Thrive”

I’m not going to lie to you… I really don’t enjoy reading on organizational leadership. I have a really hard time making my way through them. I would rather read a dense theology book any day. So for most of my career in ministry I have avoided leadership books like the plague – only reading them when I had to (i.e. forced by my leaders at the church I work at).

In my opinion, church leadership books were a necessary evil.

As lately, as me and my team are trying to move our college ministry forward into the future that God has for it, I have come to realize that leadership books aren’t actually a necessary evil. They just are necessary. But they aren’t just necessary – they are actually important.

Teams and ministries that truly thrive, and not just survive, are teams that believe collaborative leadership is important and they put in the hard work to get better as a team.

Teams that Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership covers it all. It begins by making a case for why we should even read a book about leadership, then they make a case for why the biblical model for leadership is teams not individuals. Then they lead us to evaluate how our team is doing. Then they get to what I believe is the most important part of the book:

5 Disciplines of Teams that Thrive

  • Focus on Purpose
  • Leverage Differences in Team Membership
  • Rely on Inspiration More than Control to Lead
  • Intentionally Structure Your Decision-Making Process
  • Build a Culture of Collaboration

It was the first discipline that really spoke to me the most. To a certain extent I already knew the other four (though they were good reminders). However I have never really thought of how vital it is to be able to articulate in a clear, compelling, challenging, calling oriented, consistently held way what your purpose as a leadership team is. As Bird and Hartwig say:

Without a 5C purpose, a team will never reach its potential or be able to set meaningful performance goals, which transform the broad purpose into specific and measurable performance challenges, focus the team on pursuing results, facilitate decision making and constructive conflict, and drive the development of an approach to get the work done. (105)

Clearly articulating your purpose will help narrow your team’s scope, it creates space for staff and volunteers to contribute at a high level, it compels people to contribute their best, it inspires and energizes the team, it clarifies the team’s unique contribution to the church, and it brings the team together.

As I look at our ministry, I realize that we haven’t clearly articulate our purpose as a leadership team. And now as a result of this book I see how important that actually is. One thing that I loved about this book was that it actually laid out some practical “2 Minute Tips” on how to take steps towards accomplishing these things and cultivating teams that thrive. These “two-minute tips” are invaluable. They really helped to get my creative juices flowing!

Overall – here are my thoughts – if you don’t really like leadership books… stop that right now. You need to at the very least consider how you might strengthen your organizational leadership. For the sake of your church, just do it! A great place to start would be Bird and Hartwig’s Teams that Thrive.

A Leadership Night with Alan Fadling

Yesterday night Rocky Peak had its end of the year Life Group leader gathering. It was a night filled with worship, testimonies as to what God had done in Life Group, and some encouraging words on “rest” from Alan Fadling.

In case you don’t know him Alan Fadling is author of An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, which was honored with an “Award of Merit” by Christianity Today under the category “Spirituality.” The book has been getting rave reviews by some heavy hitting authors/pastors. I (who am not a heavy hitting author/pastor) liked it a whole lot as well! Also, on a more personal note, many many years ago Alan was the College Pastor at Rocky Peak! How crazy is that!

Anyway here are some highlights of what he talked about last night:

  • As leaders we often lead on empty… What if leadership was leading from overflow? What if it is just sharing what is overflowing from me? That doesn’t happen when you live life in a hurry.
  • Hurry is a disordered soul.
  • We want God to answer quickly, we want him to do things fast… but God has a bias towards relationship, and he knows that sometimes when he gives us what we want when we want it we are quick to run off.
  • Work is certainly a gift from God, but so is rest.
  • I am not what I do… that is not my identity. My identity is “beloved of God.” That identity is true of me whether I am at work or at rest.
  • In the Bible rest comes first, work flows out of that.
  • One thing that you need to understand is how much Jesus treasures your friendship.
  • The more I thank, the more I remember how graced my life is.

There were many more highlights from last night, but those are just a few. If you are interested in what he has to say, I recomend that you pick up his book An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest. Whether you are a pastor, college ministry leader, or don’t do “ministry” at all, there is much to draw from this book.

5 Essentials of Discipleship

If you were going to start discipling a 21 year old college student, which five things would you aim for? Probably something about identity in Christ, service, understanding the bible, understanding the need to evangelize, how to pray, and other things along those lines right? Well let me suggest 5 different things… I would love to hear your feedback!

I was recently given an article with no name on it, so I don’t know who wrote it, but apparently the author is a pastor from a church called Mosaic, so I am assuming its Erwin McManus. Here are the 5 essentials of discipleship that he lists:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Humility
  3. Wholeness
  4. Integrity
  5. Leadership

1- Gratitude: It begins with gratitude for the cross. Gratitude for the cross sets us up to be grateful for all the things that God has done in our lives, but it also teaches us to be grateful towards us others. How grateful are they for the cross? How grateful are they about their family, job, position in life, etc?

2-Humility: Once you see gratitude peek through the next step is humility. Is there pride within your disciple? If so what sorts of things do they boast in? How do you address their pride?

3-Wholeness: The author defines it in a weird way, he says wholeness is “giving more than you take.” That doesn’t really seem like wholeness to me, but a person who is functionally broken doesn’t usually have the resources to give more than they take, so I guess it makes sense. Is this person quick to give or are they primarily a receiver?

4-Integrity: Can this person be trusted? Are they genuine in serving? It’s a tough topic to wrap your head around, but a person with integrity is not two-faced, when they serve they don’t have ulterior motives.

5-Leadership: This is the end goal in discipling, getting them to a point where they can take the lead in discipling others. As Thomas Wood says, leaders don’t reproduce disciples, they reproduce other leaders. Are you setting them up for leadership when you disciple them? Or are you setting up to be dependent upon you for the rest of their walk with Christ?

So what would you add to this list? What would you take out? Or am I completely off the mark?