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Saturday
Apr232016

Why many leaders have few, or no, close friends!

We all need friends as we travel through life. Pastors and leaders at times find this difficult; not knowing who they can trust or want to have close to them.

Many have been burned, betrayed or abused and are reluctant to try again. Here are some reasons from Chuck Lawless why pastors/leaders have few close friends.

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

Why pastors have few deep friendships

I’ve heard it so many times that I almost expect it: pastors are lonely. They often minister among people they say they love, but don’t know well. They have few deep friendships. Here are 10 reasons why we struggle with finding friends: 

1.  Someone taught us never to have close friendships in a church. Several of my seminary professors and most of my early mentors told me never to get close to church members. I’m grateful now that I didn’t listen well – but I have friends who continue to follow that advice.

2.  We’ve been hurt in the past.  I understand why my professors and mentors said what they said. They had risked being vulnerable with church members, and it cost them. Their openness led only to pain, and they don’t the next generation of leaders to experience the same.

3.  We assume this ministry is not our last one.  If we think that this church is only one stop on our ministry journey, it’s harder to develop deep friendships. Who wants to invest deeply when you know this role is a fleeting one?

4.  Many of us are introverted.  Even people who speak publicly every week can be introverted and private. I suspect church members would be surprised by how many of us are drained by events like fellowship dinners. We sometimes seclude ourselves just to get some rest.

5.  Others are uncomfortable around us.  I remember a church member whose family never invited me to dinner because they thought their dishes weren’t good enough for their pastor. That struck me as odd, not only because I’m just a normal guy, but also because most of my dinners at the time were delivered through a drive-thru window!

6.  Our spouse has been hurt. We can often handle it when our feelings are hurt, but it’s tougher when our spouse has been wounded. Protecting our spouse from hurt sometimes means avoiding deep relationships.

7.  We don’t want anyone to know us well. For pastors who admit this reason, it’s often because we don’t like who we are. We know we need to do better in our devotions. We fear others will see that we don’t always love, evangelize, or minister like we should.

8.  We get tired of people. It’s not that we don’t love people; it’s just that it feels like we’re around people all the time. Taking a break from people, though, usually means closing the door to friendships.

9.  Some of us were raised in churches with superficial relationships. At some level, we’re all products of our upbringing. When you’re raised around surface-level Christian friendships, that kind of relationship might be all you know. 

10.  Even believers get jealous and competitive. As pastors, we fear getting too close to particular people, lest others get angry. And, even among pastors, we struggle getting to know one another because we compete against each other for members. In the end, everybody loses.

Regardless of your prior experiences, what will you do (with His help)  to build a few solid friendships?

 

Thursday
Apr212016

Leadership derailers you'll want to avoid at all costs!

A number of years ago, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica on a mission trip with some people from my church. From what I can gather, there are insufficient funds in Costa Rica to keep the roads in good repair--at least in the area where we were.

Additionally, Costa Rica gets lots of rain, which results in huge potholes in the roads.

If you drove into one, you might seriously damage your vehicle and perhaps hurt yourself. The solution they came up with was to put oil drums in some, but not all, of the holes (I am not kidding). That made for interesting driving. You basically drove in such a way so as to avoid the oil drums and on whatever side of the road was necessary to keep from hitting one. It was especially interesting at night. Being in a few taxis in Costa Rica deepened my prayer life.

Leadership can be like driving on the Costa Rican roads; there are derailers (potholes) along the road that need to be avoided or you will be in big trouble.

In my experience from being in vocational Christian ministry for 48 years, here are four derailleurs that I have seen.

1. UNREFLECTIVE

The demands on leaders are horrific. So many expectations, so many people with significant needs and issues, and so many urgent and demanding decisions that scream for one’s attention and energy. Put all this together with the fact that many leaders are doers and accomplishers by nature and the result is precious little time taken for reflection…reflecting on my own life, reflecting on where I’m headed, and reflecting on what the most important things are on which I need to be focused in any given hour, day or week.

We become reactive (putting out fires) instead of being proactive (lighting fires). Solitude, time to think, to pray, to catch our breath is so critical to longevity in leadership. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”I’m not sure I would go that far, but certainly the unreflective (unexamined) life has the potential of derailing you big time!

2. UNAWARE

Unawareness can take different forms, but I’m thinking here of being unaware of the needs of people closest to me…those in my family, my direct reports, and those on my leadership team. When I am super busy and moving at an insane pace, I stop asking questions, stop listening, stop knowing about the needs of those around me. I can become tuned out. Meetings are all goal-focused and I’m not aware of what’s going on with the people I’m leading. Am I truly aware of how they are doing? Am I aware of how their family is doing?  I can ask transactional questions which are superficial and routine and keep me in the dark about what is really going on.

Leadership can become all about getting to the goal, getting things done, checking things off my list. My experience has taught me that the faster I travel, the worse I become at paying attention to and listening well to the important people in my life.

3. UNSYMPATHETIC

I can be aware from a factual point of view, but still be unsympathetic. Awareness is the first step, but it needs to move to God-enabled compassion and sympathy. Due to being a goal-oriented bottom line thinker, this is my biggest challenge.

There is an old saying that sounds like an empty cliché but is nonetheless very true: People don’t care about how much you know, but they want to know about how much you care.

Hurting, beat-up, abused, misunderstood, frustrated and exhausted people want to know that you really care…that you are really interested in them…that they matter to you personally and to the calling and vision you have received from Jesus.

Can I trust you? Am I safe with you? Do you really care about me? These are all questions followers have a right to ask of their leaders. The leader who is all wrapped up in himself not only makes a small package, but will also drive people away, have them move on because of your perceived hypocrisy and narcissism as it relates to loving them. People leave a leader, not a job. And the leader they will most likely leave is an unsympathetic one; a leader who doesn’t genuinely love and care about people.

4. UNCONNECTED

Leadership can be lonely and, oftentimes, is. If you have been burned a few times, you begin to not trust people or share your emotions, fears and issues with others. You start to withdraw, disconnect or play your cards close to the vest (to use a gambling metaphor).

You start to spend more and more time by yourself…tend to not have close friends…stop getting adequate feedback prior to important decisions. You can slowly become disconnected from reality and think you are always right. You can even become paranoid, thinking someone is out to get you or to betray you. This is a derailer for many leaders.

Leader! How are you doing? Are you close to hitting an oil drum or falling into a pothole with no oil drum? What would Jesus have you do in trusting Him and cooperating with Him in making some changes?

 

Tuesday
Apr192016

Ten signs you're part of a great church!

Every follower of Jesus, as well as every leader, would like to be part of a great church. What are the attributes of a truly great and biblical church? Greg Stier answers that question for us by sharing ten signs you’re part of a great church.

Originally posted by Greg Stier

I love the church. She is Christ’s bride and the key to cultural transformation. In that sense, every church is great. But let’s be honest, there are a ton of churches that leave much to be desired when it comes to truly making a difference in their congregations and communities. So, when you plug into a church that is getting it done, it’s a true blessing.

Of course there are no perfect churches, but there are many that are pressing toward the high water mark we see in Scripture.

Here are 10 signs you may be going to a great local church:

1. It is led by a team of godly leaders not a Lone Ranger pastor who gathers Tonto-type leaders around him to say “Yes, Kemo Sabe” to his each and every idea (Titus 1:5-9).

2. The Gospel is central to every sermon, program and meeting (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) and the advancement of it both locally and globally drive strategic initiatives (Acts 1:8).

3. People are using their spiritual gifts not just watching the “stage team” exercise theirs (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), resulting in disciples being made and multiplied (2 Timothy 2:2).

4. It, like the early church, is integrated, fully representing the demographic of the community in which it resides (Ephesians 2:11-21). By the way, my buddy Derwin Gray has got a lot of great material (blogs, sermons, etc.) on this particular point.

5. Love, demonstrating itself in friendliness, generosity, internal/external care programs and community involvement, dominates the atmosphere (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

6. Most likely there is a thriving small group program where members truly can have great biblical conversations, share struggles and pray with/for each other (James 5:16).

7. The people are being inspired and equipped to share their faith relationally, resulting in more and more new believers being added to the church (Acts 2:47).

8. The teaching/preaching is biblical, theological and immensely practical (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-4).

9. Ministry to children and teenagers are top priorities, not afterthoughts (Titus 2:1-8; Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

10. Intercessory prayer fuels everything. It’s the engine, not the caboose, of how the church rolls from top to bottom (1 Timothy 2:1-8).

These are 10 signs you may be going to a great church. What are some other signs?  

 

Sunday
Apr172016

Have you stopped dreaming or given up on your dreams?

"And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them (his brothers)."  Genesis 42:9 ESV

Jesus, thank you for the ongoing dreams I have.

Thank you for fulfilling so many I have had.  I want to continue to be a dreamer for your honor and glory! Help me to never forget or give up on the dreams you have planted in my heart!

I mentioned some time ago that I would not like to have this on my gravestone, “Here lies Dave Kraft…he was both stupid and rude,” taken from Proverber 18:13 in The Message.

But I would like to have, “Here lies Dave Kraft…he was a dreamer.”

Here are some thoughts about dreaming:

  • You may have stopped dreaming because you feel your dreams are too small
  • You may have stopped dreaming because you feel your dreams are too big
  • You may have stopped dreaming because people have rained negatively on your dream parade
  • You may stopped dreaming because you see your gifts and capacity as too small
  • You may have stopped dreaming because you see your sin and shortcomings as bigger than the God who encourages you to dream
  • “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.” Oliver Wendell Holmes. I don’t want to be that person and I am assuming you don’t either
  • Have you quit dreaming? Have you given up on the dream God gave you in the past?
  • Our God is still the God of the impossible, the unlikely, the improbable & the unthinkable…dream BIG!

Here is Sir Francis Drake's prayer before circumnavigating the globe:  

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little. When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life. Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and, in our efforts to build a new earth we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain who is Jesus Christ.

Saturday
Apr162016

5 problems every small to mid-sized church encounters that hold them back

Church size and church growth is always a hot topic. Here Carey Nieuwhof shares five things that hold small to mid-size churches back.

Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

Things that small to mid-size churches struggle with that holds them back.

Of all the subjects I deal with on this blog, church size generates a LOT of reaction and emotion.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark struck a deep nerve.

As I outline in my new book, people clearly have strong opinions and emotions about the size of churches that can (and should) be overcome.

But I can also totally relate to the dynamics of leading a smaller church.

When I began in ministry, I spent about 3 years leading a small congregation (under 100) that grew into a mid-sized church (under 500) and then grew into a larger church.

I remember the emotions that swirl around small and mid-sized churches. I also have lived through the struggles those congregations face.

This post (like the last one) is written for church leaders and teams that want to reach more people. If you don’t want to grow, this post won’t help you much.

It’s critical that as church leaders we understand the tensions we’re facing. In the same way that diagnosing that pain under your kneecap when you’re trying to run a race is helpful, diagnosing what you sense in the congregation can be critical to taking your next step forward.

Overcome these tensions and you’re closer to progress. Avoid them or fail to deal with them and you can stay stuck a long time.

So, here are 5 problems every small to mid-sized church encounters.

1. The desire to keep the church one big family

This pressure is huge.

Many people believe that the church functions best as one big family.

The reality is even when our church was 40 people, those 40 people didn’t know each other—really. Some were left out, others weren’t.

Even at 100 or 300, enough people will still believe they know ‘everyone’. But they don’t.

When people told me they knew everyone I would challenge people (nicely) and say “Really, you know everyone? Because as much as I wish I did, I don’t.” They would then admit they didn’t know everyone. They just knew the people they knew and liked and often felt that growing the church would threaten that.

The truth is, at 100-300, many people are unknown. And even if ‘we all wear name-tags,” many of the people in your church don’t really have anyone to talk to about what matters. The one big family idea is, in almost every case, a myth.

Once you get beyond a dozen people, start organizing in groups. Everyone will have a home. Everyone who wants to be known and have meaningful relationships will have them. And a healthy groups model is scalable to hundred, thousands and even beyond that.

2. The people who hold positions don’t always hold the power 

In many small churches, your board may be your board, but often there are people—and even families—whose opinion carries tremendous weight.

If one of those people sits on the board, they end up with a de facto veto because no one wants to make a move without their buy in. If they are not on the board, decisions the board makes or a leader makes can get ‘undone’ if the person or family disapproves.

This misuse of power is unhealthy and needs to be stopped.

In the churches where I began, I took the power away from these people by going head to head with them, then handed it back to the people who are supposed to have the power.

In two out of three cases, the person left the church after it was clear I would not allow them to run it anymore.

It’s a tough call, but the church was far better off for it. When the people who are gifted to lead get to lead, the church becomes healthy. When we got healthy, we grew.

3. The pastor carries expectations no human can fulfill

In most small to mid sized churches, the pastor is expected to attend (if not conduct) every wedding, funeral, hospital call or meeting, visit people in their homes, write a killer message every Sunday, organize most of the activities of the church, be present for all functions AND have a great family life.

In other words, the pastor carries expectations no human can fulfill.

The key here for those who want to grow past this is to set clear expectations of what you will spend your time on.

I visited people in their homes and in hospital for the first two years, but then we went to a groups model. I explained (for what seemed like forever) how care was shifting from me to the congregation.

I stopped attending every church event.

We developed a great counseling referral network. And I started focusing on what I can best contribute given my gift set: communication, charting a course for the future, developing our best leaders, casting vision and raising resources.

Many small church pastors are actually more burnt out than large church pastors.

Small church pastors, please realize this: if the key to growing your church is to work more hours, you’re sunk. Work better and smarter with clearer boundaries and expectations. Don’t just work longer.

Once you master that, you can thrive, even as your church grows.

4. Tradition has more pull than vision

This is not just about traditional churches—it’s true of church plants too.

The past has a nostalgia to it that the future never does.

Even the recent past. Remember how great the church felt when it was smaller, more intimate and met in the living room/school/old facility?

The challenge for the leader is to cast a vision that is clear enough and compelling enough to pull people from the familiar past into a brighter future.

5. The natural desire to do more, not less

As you grow, you will be tempted to do more. Every time there are more people/money/resources, the pressure will be strong to add programming and complexity to your organization.

Resist that. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Often the key to reaching more is doing less. By doing a few things well and creating steps, not programs, you will help more people grow faster than almost any other way.