Things that will steal a leader's joy

Jesus wants his leaders to have his joy in both life and ministry.  There are some things for leaders that will drain them and steal their joy. Here are ten of them from Thom Rainer.

Originally posted by Thom Rainer

I know. There are many unhappy leaders in our local churches. Such is not a judgmental statement, but a statement of reality. Indeed, I count myself among those who have struggled with joy in ministry on more than one occasion.

In this post, I share ten of the most common reasons pastors and other church staff members lose their joy in ministry. But I don’t want to just dwell on the negative. Next to each reason, I offer suggestions to counter these joy stealers. Indeed, I have learned both the reasons for joy stealers and the reasons joy returns largely from you readers. Over the past few years, you have been my teachers in many ways. I am so grateful for you.

What are the joy stealers? Even more importantly, what are pastors and other church staff doing to recapture their joy? Here are ten common responses.

  1. Seeing the underbelly of Christian ministry. Christian ministry means working with sinners just like you and me. It’s often not a pretty sight to see what we see in local churches. And while we don’t condone sin, let’s learn to demonstrate grace and love like Jesus did and does.
  2. Constant criticisms (“death by a thousand cuts”). I received my first criticism as a pastor on my third day of ministry. I was crushed. May we be men and women who seek to please God instead of people. And may He give us the strength to be godly and gracious when we do receive criticisms.
  3. Fighting among Christians. A non-Christian recently told me that he has been observing Christians on blogs and social media the past several months. He said: “You Christians are some of the meanest people I’ve ever known.” Ouch. We will know Christlike joy when we act like Him, and not like the world.
  4. Busyness that turns to prayerlessness. We will always lose our joy when we neglect our time in prayer. When we pray, we are connected to the Source of all joy. If we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.
  5. Unreasonable work hours. Many in Christian ministry become workaholics to the detriment of their families and themselves. It is ultimately our choice and our responsibility to have a balanced life. When we don’t, the joy goes away.
  6. Attacks on our family. This is an especially difficult joy stealer because we sometimes feel powerless when it happens. Be even more diligent in prayer to seek His wisdom. Let your family know they come first. Confront the perpetrator if necessary. But do this all in a spirit of prayer and love.
  7. Sour staff relations. Anecdotally, I believe this joy stealer is present in over half of our churches. It is your responsibility to be gracious, to be a reconciler, and to be a peacemaker. If relationships are still sour, you have done all you can. Your joy comes from the Lord, not the other church staff.
  8. Inwardly focused church. A church that focuses most ministries and activities on the members and not those beyond the church becomes stale and self-serving. You must get your joy in the Lord by reaching out to others regardless of what others in the church do.
  9. Lack of respect in the community and culture. Up until about 1990, most ministers were respected, if not revered, in their communities. That reality is shifting dramatically in most communities today. Remember again, your joy does not come from the approval of men and women in the community.
  10. Entitlement mentality among some church members. A number of church members view the church as a country club where they pay dues to get what they want. You responsibility as a minister in the church is to serve all people in the name of Christ. In doing so, you will find His joy. But that does not mean you have to yield to the demands of selfish whiners.

There are definitely two common themes in this article. First, ministry in the church is not easy. It’s been that way for 2,000 years. Second, if we focus on these joy-stealers, they will indeed take away our joy. But if we keep our focus on Christ, our joy can never be taken away.

Let me hear from you. What are some joy stealers you have encountered in ministry? How did you get your joy back?



How Smart Are You?


When I was in the 6th grade the teacher had all of the seats numbered. Students sat in different seats from day to day depending on how well they did on the tests. I hate tests, so guess where I almost always sat? (I can identify with Charlie Brown!) Those who did well sat in the first few rows and others of us sat toward the back.

As a youngster, you were tested to determine your IQ (intelligence quotient.) It was believed that your potential and future was very much dependent on your score, and there didn't seem to be a whole lot you could do about that score. You were either one of the "smart kids" or you weren't. It didn't seem fair, but that was the way it was.

Students graduating from high school take the SAT and other tests to determine how "smart" they are and that information may determine what schools they can or cannot attend. It has pretty much been that way for a good many years, until Daniel Goleman came along.

In 1997 He wrote a book ("Emotional Intelligence") that redefined how we perceive intelligence. Goleman makes a case for a relational intelligence that knows how to get along with others; to be "smart" at building collaborative relationships.

The book argues that our normal view of human intelligence is far too narrow, ignoring a crucial range of abilities that matter in terms of how we do in life. Goleman speaks of a different way of "being smart." Emotional intelligence includes such things as empathy and social deftness. The good news is that emotional intelligence is not fixed at birth as IQ is perceived to be. Its vital qualities can be nurtured and strengthened in everyone.

This research has important implications for Christian leaders. Success in leadership used to be perceived as getting ahead. Now it is being increasingly defined as getting along.

Pacific Fleet Commander D. Michael Abrashoff said, "The most important thing a captain can do is to see the ship from the eyes of the crew." Long gone are the days in leadership where the "know it all, does it all" sits at the top and dictates.

The effective leader of the new millennium is a person who works through a network of patiently developed relationships. It is clear that your EQ is to be equally, if not more, valued than your IQ.

More leaders plateau or self-destruct due to the inability to get along than for any other reason. Some years ago a survey was conducted which revealed that 90% of those returning from the mission field prematurely did so because they couldn't get along with their fellow missionaries. The language was not the issue. Their education was not the issue. It was their lack in the area of emotional intelligence.

This is the era of the team, not the solo leader. Leadership today is more about enabling and empowering than employing. Leaders who are good at developing and maintaining healthy relationships and tapping the power of those relationships will be the most valuable leaders of the future.

By nature, I’m a task-oriented leader. I have to work overtime at being relationally sensitive and attuned. I plan on spending the rest of my life seeking the Lord's help in being more caring, a better listener, a team player, an affirmer, an encourager.

Leonard Sweet, who currently serves as the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew Theological School, Drew University in Madison, New Jersey notes that, "The modern era undervalued the leadership art related to connectedness. In fact, collaborative skills are more valuable to leadership than technical skills."

So, how "smart" are you?



Six Things That Can Hide Bad Leadership

Bad, toxic or inept leadership is not always easy to spot until it is too late.  From Phil Cooke, are some things to be looking for.

Originally posted by Phil Cooke

Six Things That Can Hide Bad Leadership

Over the years, I’ve encountered some terrible leaders – many times in situations where their employees and coworkers actually thought they were a genius. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well. I started thinking I was an idiot, and it bothered me for a long time, until I realized that there are some key situations and cultures to watch for in organizations that can actually hide bad leadership.  Here’s the six most damaging:

1) Money – This is the big culprit because any organization with enough money can often overcome bad leadership. Mistakes can be fixed and bad decisions rectified if you have deep enough pockets. Very often, generations of bad leaders can coast off the success of the founder.

2) Resources – I knew a producer that worked for a large media organization. He didn’t have to be a great leader because he had multiple assistants, a talented staff, and remarkable studios and equipment. Just like the case with money, great resources can mask bad leadership. Once the producer launched out on his own, he failed immediately, because there was no one else to blame for his incompetence.

3) Bubble Cultures – Churches are particularly vulnerable to this one. In a bubble culture, the organization has limited interaction with the outside world, and therefore no comparisons for performance. For instance, in a church, the donations come in from the congregation, the staff ministers to the congregation, all in a cycle, with little interaction from outside sources. This is why the occasional external consultant can be so important – to give you a better perspective on how the rest of the world works.

4) Hyper-Loyalty – In these cultures, loyalty is so highly prized that it covers a multitude of leadership sins. I’ve seen numerous bad leaders cover their ineptitude by stressing the importance of loyalty over competence. They teach that loyalty is more important than excellence and they use that idea to distract the team from their own inability to perform.  In its extreme form, look in the dictionary under “cult.”

5) Nepotism – A culture of nepotism creates safety nets for the leader. For instance, if the leader is the founder’s son or daughter, there are a million ways the founder can cover for them. It happens up and down the food chain as family members use their own authority to cover the leadership mistakes of their incompetent relatives.

6) The Political Animal – This leader is the master politician, and knows how to create alliances and support. He or she understands the art of the schmooz and can easily distract superiors from mistakes. Many other co-workers careers have been destroyed by a political animal protecting his turf. Be care of this one – he or she can be the most dangerous of all.

Bad leadership isn’t always obvious, and as damaging as it can be, it can last for generations. Keep your eye out, because while it may be invisible to those around you, it is rotten to the core.  Have you recognized any of these symptoms of bad leadership?  Have I left any out?



Leading Yourself

Leaders should spend fifty percent of their time leading themselves. WHAT? So suggests Dee Hock, author of “The Art of Chaordic Leadership.” When most leaders think of leadership, they think downward (leading those for whom they’re responsible). But, in essence, you really lead upward (with those to whom you are responsible), horizontally (with those who are your peers) and, perhaps most importantly, you lead yourself. If I am not able to lead myself, how can I lead others (since leadership has a great deal to do with modeling)?  So, what is involved in leading yourself?

When I began to consider self-leadership, my mind raced back to a verse I memorized many moons ago. Song of Solomon 1:6: “…they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.” A modern rendering of that might be: They made me responsible for taking care of what belongs to others, but I have not taken care of what God has entrusted to me. I have not done a good job of managing, stewarding, leading myself and yet I am tasked with and trying to lead others. As I study the key passages on leadership in the New Testament (I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1st Peter 5), it seems to me that they deal primarily with self-management/self-leadership as a prerequisite for leading others.

Could it be that the reason so many leaders fail in leading upward, downward or horizontally is that they have not done a very good job in leading inwardly?  Daniel Goleman, the spokesperson for emotional intelligence, deals quite extensively with this concept of self-leadership. Goleman believes that successful leaders distinguish themselves by knowing their strengths, limits and displaying self-control in key areas of their lives.

Here are a few areas, along with questions to consider, that are consistent with Scripture as you consider leading yourself.

1.  My gifts: How am I doing at leading myself by knowing my gifts, staying within my limits and developing those gifts to their highest God-pleasing potential?

2.  My character: How am I doing at leading myself by being a person of integrity, following through on promises made and being a person whom others can trust?

3.  My Purity: How am I doing at leading myself by being careful of what I allow my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my mind to think about? How are my relationships with members of the opposite sex? Do I have guidelines, safeguards and appropriate and honest accountability?

4.  My pride: How am I doing at leading myself by keeping Christ and not me at the center? Am I the hero of my own stories? Do the words I speak communicate an attitude of arrogance and superiority, or am I characterized by humility and teachability?

5.  My Pace: How am I doing at leading myself in the use of my time? Is my schedule writing checks my body can’t cash? Am I going at an unbalanced pace that is digging myself, and those whom I lead, an early grave? Do I have a biblical view of work and leisure, or am I a workaholic who gets my sense of self-worth based on my work?

6.  My finances: How am I doing at leading myself in the money arena? Do I have healthy protection--checks and balances built in regarding organizational funds that don’t belong to me? Are there healthy audits over all financial dealing with which I am associated? Do I resist the lusting, grabbing life-style of my culture, choosing instead to be content and satisfied with God’s provision? Or, is my happiness at the door of the next purchase?

7.  My anger: How am I doing at leading myself emotionally? Do I have a reputation for being a hothead, having a short fuse? Do I keep track of and keep score regarding perceived slights, insults, put-downs?  Does resentment, bitterness, lack of forgiveness characterize me? One survey I came across revealed that bitterness is the major cause of burnout for men between 38 and 50 years of age.

Years ago I heard Lorne Sanny (former president of The Navigators) speak about areas of self-leadership that he kept an eye on and prayed about so that he wouldn’t self-destruct.  I, at that time, developed my own list that I pray over most days:  Purity, Humility, Patience and Contentment. These are my key areas of “Self-Leadership.”

“In a race, everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. Like an athlete, I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.” I Corinthians 9:24-27 (The Living Bible)


Reasons Churches Stop Growing

All healthy and living things grow.  Healthy churches will grow; both qualitatively and quantitatively. What stops churches from growing and remaining healthy and strong? Here are some solid reasons from Ron Edmondson.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

I was talking with a church recently that had explosive growth, but things have slowed. They wanted to know why they were not growing any longer.

Honestly, I dont know. There are probably different reasons for every church that stops growing.

But, this church is seeking answers. So, I decided to share Some thoughts to consider. And, I’m sharing them here.

Obviously, God is ultimately in charge of a churches growth. There are times where God is giving a season of rest and preparation for a church for something to come. In some situations, God may have even taken His hand from the church.

God is into church growth, however. I’m convinced He likes it when a church grows.

It’s our mission as believers to produce disciples and our model example of the first century church was a growing church, so outside the God factor, there are usually reasons for stagnation in a church. Because the church is an organization made up of people, these reasons are often similar to those you may find true as to why growth stalls in the life of an organization also.

In my experience, the are some common variables when growth stalls.

Here are 5 suggestions:

You get comfortable

It’s okay to be comfortable, but when you hang out there too long, it can be dangerous, because you stop trying new things to spur growth and excitement.

You quit dreaming

Dreams inspire, challenge, and grow people and organizations. What could the church accomplish to reach its community? You’ll never dream bigger than the dreams God has for you or your church.

You stop taking risks

You can’t succeed at anything without a measure of risk. Playing it safe never grows anything. The call of God always involves risk-taking.

You start maintaining

When you fall into the mode of protecting what you have, you’ll be less likely to encourage growth for fear of losing ground.

You fail to walk by faith.

Especially for the church — we are a faith-based organization. If you aren’t walking by faith in what you are doing it is impossible to please God. (That’s Biblical. Look it up!)

Those are my quick thoughts.

Obviously, there is so much more to this issue and to each one of these answers. These are general responses and there are specific issues with every church or organization. Hopefully thinking through each of these as a paradigm for brainstorming may help trigger thoughts towards actions which can spur future growth.

But, I’ve also learned that activity leads to activity. Maybe just having the discussions will begin to stir new momentum. Pray hard and ask God to stir big.

What would you add?