Build Church: 5 Ways Failing Can Actually Benefit Us

It could be argued that we live in a world driven by the need to succeed and to do so at any cost (sometimes). The danger comes for us in building church when such a culture begins to influence our attitude towards what we are doing.

We may become more task focused and less people focused.
We may become all about ‘what’ and forget the ‘why’ behind all we are doing.
We may become overly critical of the small stuff losing sight of the bigger picture.

Such behaviours can change the culture from one faith to one of fear, especially one where people become fearful of not attaining to the right level of success and therefore they withdraw from what it is God is calling them  to do.

Failure is important when it comes to building church for the following reasons:

We learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s pretty obvious but it means we can then make any necessary changes.

We are actually trying something new or different. The easiest way to not fail is to not do anything new or different.

Shows us as inclusive not exclusive. If the drive for excellence makes people feel like they can only be part of the church by getting everything right every time, we have by default created a very exclusive culture.

Helps encourage creative thinking. Once we know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ the ‘how’ can be imagined in so many different ways. Especially when we know failing at the idea isn’t the end.

Reminds us how much we need to be asking God for some help. God doesn’t think like us. We may have the plan and the dreams but we have to allow God to ordain the steps. Without failing we often don’t learn.

What is the best thing you have learned when you have failed at something?

5 Areas for Continuous Improvement as an Exec Pastor

It’s easy to get caught up in the doing of a job, be overly-led by a job role/description, maybe even make the Executive Pastor [XP] role too operational. In my opinion it is much more than just keeping an eye on the budget and all that stuff, although they are very important.

Here are 5 things I work on and remind myself of often which I hope help me in my role as an XP .

To Be a Better Listener. I acknowledge this is a much needed area of improvement for me. I like to give an opinion, yet I am learning that the XP role requires a greater willingness to listen. It has to be about helping others feel like they have been heard and understood, even if the answer is still no or not yet.

To Become More Solution-Orientated. This doesn’t mean I fix everything but I can give time and attention to a challenge or idea that others may not be able to. Sometimes this can involve some tough conversations, asking the difficult questions and digging in to understand something properly. The bigger challenge is doing so in as graceful was as possible.

To Develop Others. I am always reminding myself, what we do is all about people. I  might love a good system or process to help move things forward, however there is no substitute for being more focused on growing bigger people.

To Make it More Fun. I mentioned in church the other Sunday how I used to be the life and soul of the party and that maybe I have allowed an appropriate level of sarcasm to become cynicism. There’s an honest ouch! Life should definitely be more fun.

To Always Know the Heart of my Lead Pastor. Probably the most essential. Knowing what to say yes or no to depends on me knowing and understanding my Lead Pastors heart. This means good, regular, open and honest communication, alongside the need for a strong trust-filled working relationship. If I don’t know him well enough then I cannot act on his behalf with any confidence.

I am here to serve my Lead Pastor and his vision, which is all about God and building the local church.  It’s about being able to work well with others, including people in the process, in the decisions and empowering them to make things happen.

If you are in a similar role, what would you add to this? If you are a Lead/Senior Pastor, what would your comments be?

5 Leadership Observations

We are heading to the end of another year with alarming speed. I must be getting old if I am complaining about how quickly time is passing. Having said that, this is the time of year for reflection and looking for lessons being learned…so here are mine…

I may not be a great leader but I am doing pretty well. I realise that may seem somewhat presumptuous on my part, and those I lead will have their own opinion. I am willing to admit the mistakes I have made.

As I lead I must make sure to help you understand me more. If you don’t ‘get’ me I can easily blame you but that would be wrong. I am responsible for how I come across, the words that I speak, the actions I take, how they impact others.

I have to be disciplined in getting out of the way so others can begin and continue to grow. We are not as clever as all of us. I am privileged to be doing what I am doing but I MUST make way for others. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should. Just because you are not doesn’t mean you can’t.

I must keep asking for and work hard to keep my permission to lead. It’s not always about what we achieve but how we achieve. Character, integrity, heart are things that people follow. To keep your permission I must guard against damaging or losing these.

I need to stay teachable, to keep my attitude for learning. For me that includes reading, listening and feedback, as well as most importantly having an awareness of what God is saying and doing.

What about you? What have you been learning about yourself in 2015.

Will You Step Up?

My recent posts have been about looking out for the one, being willing to invest in one person in that apprentice style role. However, this is about the other side of this opportunity…

Who will be the one who wants to be invested in?

Lots of people want success, want to progress but are not wanting to learn. The opportunity is there but not all are willing to do what it takes to own it. There’s risk in being the one who invests in others. There is risk in being the one who wants to be invested in too. Perhaps that’s why some people back off from putting themselves in this position.

Step up. Grab a hold of the chance to learn. Be listening. Ask questions. Put yourself in the world of someone who can teach you. Just never stop being someone who wants to learn.

Will you be one of those who steps up?

Leadership Stuff I’m Always Learning

In no particular order of importance, here’s a bunch of things I am always working on and continue to learn about…

Learn to be the ultimate servant. Leaders serve people. When you stop serving or look for reasons why you don’t have to then maybe you are beginning to rely too much on your title. Where can you make your serve more effective?

Learn to listen. We love to talk but it’s the art of listening that can make all the difference. People want to know they are being heard. Who needs you to listen?

Learn to hear God. As much as we need to learn to listen to people, hearing the whisper of God is more important. What has God been saying to you recently? Have you heard His voice lately?

Learn to think. Such an under-rated skill, thinking. Sometimes we don’t know what to do and it’s often just for a lack of thinking it through. Create some space, remove distractions and mull it over. Where are you stuck? What needs some thinking time?

Learn to pray. Prayer makes a difference but is so often the last thing we do. As Christian leaders we probably all need to focus more on this one. You can never pray too much, can you? What are you believing God for at the moment? Who are you praying for?

Learn to read. Leaders are readers. Simple. Reading makes you think, helps you grow, opens your mind to different ways of approaching situations. However brilliant you may be we have to remember that ‘no-one is as smart as all of us’. What are you reading right now that is challenging you in your leadership and all aspects of life?

Learn to lead through the vision. Vision is out of which flows decisions and priorities. If you don’t know the vision then you don’t know what to say yes and no to. Leading through the vision will also help others understand why we do what we do. Are you leading through the vision or your own personal preferences?

Learn the values and the culture of where you are one of the leaders. It’s not my way that matters. I may consider it to be the greatest idea since sliced bread but if it doesn’t match the values and culture of where I am then it will only work against what is being built. All I create is a sub-culture and that is never healthy. Are you over protective of where you lead? Are you empowering of the next generation?

Learn about people. John Maxwell writes that ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. To care does not come naturally, very often it takes quite a bit of effort. How do your people skills need to improve? How can you improve your understanding of those you lead?

Learn to honest, open and transparent. Sam Chand writes that the culture of an organisation should be like this. For that to happen it must start with those who lead. We demand it of others, we want them to admit mistakes, be accepting of new ideas and able to share experiences, so why don’t we do the same. Where are you pointing the finger at others and saying they are wrong while not placing yourself as a leader under the same scrutiny?

These are a good place to start in our leadership learning. What would add, if anything, to the list?

Don’t Take It Personally

One of the biggest things you have to learn as a leader is to not take things personally.

Leadership isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone, so don’t make it harder by taking stuff that you don’t need to take on. Carrying extra baggage only makes the leadership journey harder than it already is. Here’s some things I’ve had to learn that are just a part of being a leader…

Pop shots at how you lead. The ‘You’re a lovely person but…’ kind of statement.

Questioning what you do. The ‘Why have you come here?’ type stuff. Or the ‘I wouldn’t do it that way’ comments.

Those last-minute changes. The ‘Can we do this now’ which comes from our leaders that can be thrown upon us.

Team challenges. Missing team. Why aren’t they turning up and how we think it’s our fault.

As a leader we have said we will carry it, we will cover it, we will own it, which means all this stuff and more is inevitable. It’s not personal. I have discovered that the only reason I take it personally is because there maybe an element of truth in it and I don’t like the challenge.

Here are the questions I ask myself,,.

What can I learn here and do I need to make any changes? Even if I 100% disagree there is obviously a perception about me coming through so I am wise to take note. Often the reasons we don’t like how we feel is because there some truth in what we hear. We are not being a very good leader. No one enjoys listening to something when it reveals an element of truth. Be honest with yourself and look at how you may need to grow. 

Who are making the challenges or comments? If it’s from those who lead me then sometimes I just have to suck it up and do it. If it’s from the team then perhaps I have to see if I’m leading them well enough. From anywhere else, I can listen but may choose to ignore it after asking myself the first question.

How am I growing myself? Sometimes I haven’t responded well to the challenges of leadership. One thing though has helped over the years ~ always be learning. Read, listen, have some accountability. Whatever works for you but I know that when I’m not doing anything to grow my leadership capacity I become more susceptible to taking things personally.

My final comment is this. Even when it gets personal don’t take it personally. Most of the the time we choose to take it personally when we don’t need to. On rare occasions it will be personal, maybe even downright nasty. Stay calm. Don’t argue. Ask yourself the questions. Move on. Don’t take it with you.

Leadership isn’t easy. It is a challenge. However the rewards are amazing and I wouldn’t change what I get the privilege to do every day.

What would you add to help leaders not take things personally?

The Art of Coming Under

I want to do what I want to do. Sounds fair. Don’t you know who I am, I’m the leader.

[Pause]

My journey as a leader has taught me many things and one of the tougher lessons was this, ‘It’s not about me.’ As always with any lesson that needs to be learned, very easy to say but harder sometimes to believe.

If we cannot learn to come under authority we probably struggle to be someone in authority. ‘I’m in charge’ is having authority but doesn’t necessarily make you a leader that people will listen to and follow.

From my own personal experience of thinking I can do what I like and still be a great a leader, this lesson is one I definitely learned the hard way. I possibly thought I was untouchable, invincible maybe. God’s grace is amazing that you can have a stinking attitude, make some dubious lifestyle decisions yet He still makes incredible things happen and young peoples lives are changed. However, those ‘things’ are still wrong.

I have spoken before about being called to account for actions, challenged on my attitude and how I was living. Tough, uncomfortable conversations but all a part of the process of learning to come under the authority of others.

Learning to respect those in positions of spiritual authority is difficult. Look for the fruit they produce. Check their heart. They are human after all and will most certainly get it wrong at times but so do we. Yet submission to those in spiritual authority over our lives brings more benefits than concerns. At least it always has for me.

I have benefited from coming under authority more than I have ever felt constrained by it. Coming under has brought me freedom to become who God wanted me to become, with boundaries that afforded me protection I needed when I didn’t even realise I needed it [hope that makes sense].

I have regretted making my own decisions without consultation of others who could have offered wisdom, insight, clarity and better ideas to undoubtedly bring about an end game that would have included less upset with people.

I have discovered that although the vision I have for what I am leading may be amazing, it remains irrelevant if I haven’t considered the bigger vision it is a part of.

Coming under has kept me safe in my leadership. Yes, it brings accountability, but it also brings so much more. Spiritual authority over my life is about leaders praying for me, speaking into my life, encouraging me and being along side me.

Now I have the privilege and responsibility of being one of those who is in a position of spiritual authority. To stand up for them. To pray for them. To assist them. To cover them. To help them see beyond what is just in front and have an eye for the bigger picture they are part of. To help them hear what God is saying for them and their future.

It’s never been about me and it never will be. My heart is to always be positioned right as a Christian leader so that I don’t make any stupid mistakes and disqualify myself from what God has for me to do.

Thank you to those who watched out for me in the past. Without that cover I may not be where I am today, doing what I am doing, with my beautiful family and the incredible people I get to do life with every day.