Developing Leaders

Developing Leaders

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.”

Numbers 27:18-20

With church or ministry leadership comes a huge responsibility for completing the ministry work that the Lord has called us to. More often than not, we assume that as a leader we need to be intimately involved in every aspect of our ministry if we are to lead it effectively. But the reality is we can’t. We cannot lead every meeting, oversee every detail or make every decision. As leaders, we need to enlist the support and abilities of others if we are to meet the goals God has given to us. That means that we need to identify other people who are potential leaders and develop them so that they can lead, act, and manage according to our objectives and authority. Just as Moses laid his hands on Joshua, you too will need to identify other leaders who are “in the spirit,” and commission them to act on your behalf, and with your authority.

The first thing we must do is to determine what a leader is according to the Bible. I believe there are 4 factors that describe a leader from a Biblical perspective:

  1. A leader knows their identity is in Christ (1 Peter 2:9)
  2. A leader acknowledges that they are to help others employ their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)
  3. A leader understands that their job is to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
  4. A leader is committed to spreading the gospel (Acts 1:8) and making disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19)

Knowing how to develop other leaders is extremely important for the growth and success of any ministry. If there is only one leader then that leader will be the “lid” on the ministry according to John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In other words, the ministry will not grow beyond the leader’s own abilities. Enlisting the help of other leaders enables a ministry to multiply and to go places where one leader alone cannot go by themselves. It also unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit as it works through more people!

The first step in developing leaders is to identify those who have potential. Often in our culture, churches rely on secular criteria, such as education, experience and personal references. But the Bible says there are only 3 criteria we should use:

  1. People of character (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
  2. People of faith (1 Timothy 3:9)
  3. People full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)

Failure to use these criteria often results in bad leaders. And removing bad leaders is one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. The only way to avoid that is to choose wisely and use God’s criteria for a leader and not the world’s criteria. If a potential leader exhibits the Biblical criteria, then we can use education, experience and references to select the best candidate. I would add that it is also good to select people with a passion for the ministry, people who are trainable, and people who have the appropriate spiritual gifts to ensure the best fit for the position.

Once a potential leader has been selected the development process begins. It starts with discipleship and making sure their faith is mature and that they have the knowledge to lead. Next they should be given a responsibility to see how they handle it. The leader should also clearly communicate their expectations to them and hold them accountable to complete the tasks they are assigned as agreed to. Start with small tasks and then gradually increase the level of complexity. After they have proven their capability and knowledge and as their leader you are comfortable with their leadership, release them into ministry by assigning them a responsibility. This is what Jesus did with the disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10.

Raising up other leaders is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of any leader. But be sure to do it according to Biblical criteria, take your time in selecting the leader, and pray for God’s wisdom to make sure you have the right leader!

By  Barry D. Voss

Managing Conflict

Conflict

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

Every church or ministry leader should know that conflict is inevitable in any organization. It is even more likely in the church, because the church is about people, and whenever there are people there will be conflict.  Since Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, church leaders should be prepared for it and have a Biblical way of dealing with it. So learning how to manage conflict is important for every church leader because it exists in the church, causes problems and divisions, and often results in ministry stagnation.  Confronting and dealing with conflict effectively will enable a church to move forward.

There are also sources, reasons and causes for conflict, and leaders must understand the difference.

Sources of conflict are related to the different people groups in a church.  They arise between individual church members, between the pastor and church members, between generations, between genders, and between ministries. In many churches people group together according to their preferences, interests or abilities. Some examples include worship style, home fellowship groups, children’s ministry, or choirs. They are like special interest groups whose participants have a greater concern about their particular part of the church ministry. When special interests collide, there is conflict.

Reasons for conflict are related to the actions or in-actions of a church.  They arise when there is no vision or goals being pursued, there is no strategic plan in place, there is inadequate discipleship, there is poor communication, or when the church does not deal with problems. In other words, poor leadership. When the people are not sure of what the church is trying to do then they will generally decide for themselves what is best, and hence conflict will ensue. As it is stated in Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Causes of conflict are related to spiritual forces that are at work (Ephesians 6:12). There are 3 underlying causes for most conflict: Satan, our sinful nature, and our sinful world. The Bible teaches us in 1 Peter 5:8 that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” That’s Satan at work trying to cause us to sin or pit us against each other. In Galatians 5:17 Paul writes that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” Our own humanness is always working against us and against God’s will. And finally, the Bible says in 1 John 2:16 that “everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” So the world in which we live is corrupt and always trying to corrupt us and lead us away from God. As a result, these 3 causes drive most every conflict. So we must be careful not to hate those whom we are in conflict with, but rather to recognize the underlying cause and to hate it instead. “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

Most conflict is obvious, such as  emotional outbursts, written complaints, or gossip. When a leader sees them they can deal with them.  But some conflict is not so obvious, like withdrawal from church activities, project delays, or no communication. Leaders must be mindful of these and often explore them for their hidden conflicts so they can be dealt with as well.

How are we to resolve conflict? Fortunately, Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 18:15-17 where he outlines a process for dealing with conflict and sin between people.  It is based on repentance and forgiveness. Jesus also says in Luke 6:42 that we are to “first take the plank out of our eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  So first, we go to the person and try to resolve it between us by first repenting of our sin and asking forgiveness. If there is no repentance or forgiveness from the other person, then we are to gather 2-3 witnesses and try again. And if that does not work, we are to take the issue before the entire church.  Church leaders are also sometimes called in to mediate a conflict. In that case, it is important for the leader to get all the facts, to encourage both sides to repent and forgive the other, and to follow the process that Jesus has outlined.

The key to resolving conflict, therefore, is found in humility and forgiveness. Both of these are very powerful spiritual tools that when used can overcome Satan, our sinful nature, and the sinful world, and lead to peace.  But remember, we are only responsible for our own actions. We cannot force others to forgive nor can we change their hearts or attitudes.  Only God can do that.

So let us all seek to be peacemakers through our spiritual actions of humility and forgiveness!

Discipleship Planning

Planning 2

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”

Matthew 28:19

Before Jesus left this earth to join His Father in Heaven, He left us with instructions on what to do as His followers.  He said in Matthew 28:19 that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  We call this the Great Commission and it is the sole purpose and calling of the Christian church in the world. There is no other reason for the existence of the Church. And yet so few churches actually make this the priority and focus of their ministry.  Instead they create activities, such as worship services, fellowship events, Bible classes and even mission trips that they hope will eventually produce disciples.  But activity is not necessarily accomplishment.   In my global travels and experience I have found that there are very few churches that have a plan on how they intend to make disciples. Having a goal of making disciples and not having a plan on how to do it is just wishful thinking!

Several years ago I read a book by George Barna entitled “Growing True Disciples” (2001, Waterbrook Press).  In his book Mr. Barna researched many churches in the USA and discovered that “Few churches or Christians have a clear, measurable definition of spiritual success.”  In other words, they have no goals and no plans on how to effectively make disciples. They simply create church activities that they hope will inspire their members to seek God and to follow Jesus. This is rarely effective and typically results in churches with more people who are church goers rather than Jesus followers!

Pastor Robert Schuller, author, speaker and former pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in California once said, “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” He was saying that success rarely happens without a plan.  We often have goals we want to achieve, such as losing weight, owning our own business, or competing in the Olympics.  But without a plan to achieve them one is likely to fall short, lose interest, or miss the mark entirely.  Planning helps us organize and focus our time, money and resources to reach our goal.

So if making disciples is the goal and priority of the church, why do so many churches lack a plan to achieve that goal?  Perhaps it is because they simply believe its the work of the Holy Spirit and that it is just too difficult to measure.  I agree completely that it is the work of the Holy Spirit but I would disagree on the measurement aspect. Yes, the measurements are not always easy to quantify and often hard to measure, but it is possible, especially on a church-wide basis.  For example, one could measure worship attendance, small group participation, or Bible class enrollments, and then compare statistics from year to year to see if there is any growth.  Another method would be to look at the participation rates in the service, prayer, mission and evangelism activities of the church. As church members become more committed to Christ we should see the evidence in terms of greater giving and involvement in ministry to others. Matthew 7:20 reminds us that “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

A discipleship plan for the church would then simply involve setting goals for these measurements every year and then organizing all church activities and resources towards achieving these goals. These measurements could also be tracked on an individual as well as a church-wide basis to see how individuals are growing in their faith. Then churches could evaluate all of their activities every year as to how they are impacting discipleship and the growth in faith of its members. They can see where they are having successes and they can also see where they are not effective.  It is not rocket science, but it does take discipline to adhere to the goals and to track measurements.

Planning is nothing more than organizing one’s resources to achieve a goal or a vision. For the church to be effective in making disciples they must do two things.  First, the church must set measurable goals for discipleship. This means they must determine appropriate measurements and stay focused on their goals.  Second, they must develop a plan that will enable them to achieve those goals.  This means they must have the procedures in place to track statistics and have ongoing evaluation of the plan.  Failure to do both of these will ultimately cause the church to fall short of achieving the Great Commission and the vision that Jesus has called all of His followers to pursue.

Finally, it is important for the church to be intentional about making disciples and not to just assume that it is happening. We should also remember Proverbs 16:3 which says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”  To God alone be the glory!

 

 

Servant Leadership

Jesus Washing Feet

“Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:26-27

In the Bible, Jesus clearly taught the principle of servant leadership, and that the person who wants to lead must first be a servant of others.  This is precisely how God designed humans to lead one another for the benefit of all.  Of course, the world views this much differently and often those who pursue leadership want to have the power to do what they want or believe is best.  Just look at the 2016 American Presidential race that is now underway.  How many candidates would we say are servant leaders? Not many, I suspect. And unfortunately, we will get what we vote for!

I would like to share a true story from a few hundred years ago.  There were a group of soldiers responsible for a cannon on wheels. On one particular day, it had been raining and the ground was very muddy.  Eventually the cannon got stuck in the mud. The Sergeant of the group rode on a horse and barked out instructions to the soldiers on how to get the cannon out of the mud, but to no avail. No matter how hard they pushed or pulled they could not get the cannon unstuck. Then a General came along and asked what the problem was.  The Sergeant said the cannon was stuck and his men could not get it out of the mud.  The General asked the Sergeant, “why don’t you get down and help them and maybe together you can get it out of the mud.” The Sergeant replied, “I am the Sergeant and they are the soldiers. It’s not my job to do that.  Besides, I might get my uniform dirty.” At this, the General got off of his horse and helped the men move the cannon out of the mud. That General was George Washington, the first President of the United States!

You see, George Washington understood what servant leadership was.  That’s what made him such a great leader!  It was not sitting high on his horse and telling others what to do. Rather, it was getting down in the mud and working together with his followers so that problems can be solved and goals can be reached. Effective leadership is when the leader humbles himself and seeks to support his followers, and not make demands of them.

A more current example came from a friend of mine from Indonesia, who recently sent me this story about President Jokowi of Indonesia. “On the 18th of June 2015, he invited 400 orphans to the presidential palace for a breaking of fast occasion. What was really touching and endearing is the fact that during the occasion, President Jokowi lined up for his food just like the orphans!! There was no special table for him or his Ministers, nor did they have any special food!! I could not help but be full of admiration for this great man and leader. How many people of his stature would do such a thing? How many would even contemplate inviting orphans to their breaking fast occasion!! Even if he had food served to him on a special table with lavish decorations, culturally we would have accepted it. But he personifies this concept of servant leadership i.e. he insisted on doing what his followers were doing and demonstrated that although he was their leader, he was full of humility.”  President Jokowi also understands servant leadership, and his nation will undoubtedly be blessed because of it.

The world needs more servant leaders. We need them in government.  We need them in business.  And we need them in our churches. When leaders lead according to Biblical principles, as humble servants, the people will be blessed. But when leaders lead for their own glory and purposes, the people are harmed in the process.

So let us pray for all leaders and for them to lead as servants. And let us nominate, appoint, and elect only those leaders who will demonstrate servant leadership!

 

 

Ministry Leadership

LeadershipAccording to John Maxwell, an authority on leadership, the success of any endeavor or organization rises and falls on leadership (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Thomas Nelson, 2007).  It is because leaders have tremendous influence over their organizations and their decisions, whether large or small, will often have a significant impact. That impact can either be positive or negative, depending upon the nature of each decision.  So in order for leaders to be effective it is important for them to lead wisely.  This is also true for pastors and leaders in churches and ministries.

I believe that there are 5 keys to effective ministry leadership, and each one is important to grow and sustain a ministry. Let’s look at each key individually:

#1. Leaders Use Influence, Not Authority

Leadership is about influence and the ability to motivate others to achieve a goal.  Influence is earned by building up trust and respect and results in others willingly following the leader. Authority, on the other hand, is about power and control, and generally comes from the person’s title or position in an organization. It is the ability of the person in charge to enforce their will on others. According to Romans 13:1, “There is no authority except that which God has established.” In other words, it is God who really gives leaders their authority.  Furthermore, He says there are two ways in which they are to use it.  First, they must use it to teach others (Titus 2:1 & 15).  Second, they must use it to serve others (1 Peter 5:2). So the true use of authority should be to teach and to serve others.  It is also always better to lead with influence than authority, because it means that the followers willingly follow their leader.  Sometimes leaders will have to use their authority, but just know that when they do they run the risk of creating opposition as not everyone will always agree with them.

#2. Leaders Have a Vision

Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.” This means that without a vision people will often do what seems best to them.  The Book of Judges pretty well describes what happens when there is no leadership!  An effective leader has a vision of where he is going and where he is taking his followers. Without a vision a ministry has no direction and simply wanders about with no real purpose.  This often leads to stagnation or decline.  A strong vision enables everyone in a ministry to work towards a common goal. It must also be quantifiable so that it can be measured in order for the ministry to know when the goal has been achieved. Please note that a vision is not the same as a mission.  The mission defines what you do.  The vision defines the goal you are trying to achieve. A vision for any ministry must come from God.  So it is important for a leader to pray for a vision and to think BIG so he or she can allow God to display His power through them.

#3.  Leaders Have a Plan

If a leader has a vision then a leader must also have a plan.  A goal without a corresponding plan is just wishful thinking.  Without a plan a leader is unlikely to achieve the vision.  The plan is the vehicle by which the leader organizes the resources God has provided (people, money, time, information, etc.) to achieve the vision God has give them. In other words, the leader manages God’s resources for God’s vision.  God expects the leader to invest wisely and to produce a return on His investment in them (Parable of the Ten TalentsMatthew 25:14-30).  A leader’s job, therefore, it to plan the work and then work the plan.  But also note that a good plan is flexible and allows for changes. It is not set in concrete but changes as circumstances change.

#4.  Leaders Develop People

John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Similarly, leadership is not about telling others what they can do for you, but how leaders can develop their followers to achieve more for the ministry.  When you become a ministry leader you accept responsibility for your followers.  That means that leaders must serve them and develop them to their fullest potential.  First and foremost, leaders must make disciples of their followers.  This is true whether the leader is a pastor, worship leader, youth minister, or any other ministry leadership position. This is the sole reason the ministry exists. Second, leaders must train and equip others for ministry. Every believer is a minister of the  gospel (1 Peter 2:9) and leaders must help them find their role in the ministry of the church. Finally, leaders must develop other leaders in order to grow, expand and perpetuate their ministry.

#5.  Leaders Focus on Accomplishment

Effective leaders focus on achieving goals and producing results for the ministry.  Romans 14:12 says “So then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”  Leaders will be held accountable for what they did with what God gave them.  Consequently, effective leaders strive towards the vision and measure success by the results that are achieved. Effective leaders also focus on areas of greatest return for the ministry and abandon ministries that are not producing any fruit. They also understand that activity is not accomplishment.  Just because a church is busy and active does not necessarily mean it is effective or accomplishing anything.

 

I believe that if ministry leaders concentrate on these 5 keys they will be more effective in their ministries and produce more disciples for the Kingdom!

Developing Teams

Developing Teams

 

Teamwork

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

Since the church is made up of people, and ministry is done through people, it is important for a leader to encourage people to work together towards common goals. Building teamwork among church members is vital in order to accomplish the goals and vision of the church. When people work together, they share ideas, they share the workload, and they share their gifts and talents – all for the glory of God! An effective leader encourages people to work together and creates an environment where teams can flourish. As a church grows, teams will become more important to accomplishing many of the goals and projects it is pursuing.

There are several reasons why leaders should develop teams in their churches or ministries. First of all, Jesus himself built teams.  He gathered his twelve disciples as a team and even sent them out two by two to do ministry.  Jesus rarely did anything by himself, other than pray. Secondly, it is a good way to distribute the workload. Leaders cannot do all of the work themselves, nor should they. By building teams leaders can involve more people in ministry and enable more ministry to be accomplished. Third, teamwork allows for the collaboration of ideas and greater creativity as different people have different gifts and passions they bring to the group. It also helps develop relationships among team members and builds community. Finally, it will enable the ministry to develop new leaders because leaders often emerge from working in teams.

Teams have several purposes within a church or ministry as well.  They can be used to plan projects or large ministry programs, such as VBS or community outreaches. They are often used to create church budgets, make staff additions, or develop new ministry strategies.  Teams can also be an effective way to solve church problems or research new ministry opportunities, such as schools or child care centers. Teams are most often used in churches to oversee ministries, such as church boards, or to provide support and assistance to pastors and other church leaders.

When using teams, it is important for leaders to do the following:

1. Determine the focus and purpose of each team.  Each team needs a clear vision and plan for their activities.
2. Designate a team leader or have the team choose its own leader.  Every team must have a strong leader.  The success of the team will depend upon it.
3. Encourage team members to participate. Every team member adds value to the team so all must contribute their ideas and skills.
4. Hold teams accountable for results. Leaders must follow up with teams to make sure they are making progress and to show interest in their work.
5. Recognize and reward team success.  Leaders need to encourage and reward effort and accomplishment to reinforce team effectiveness.
6. Attend team meetings occasionally.  Leaders should be available to teams to provide direction, input and encouragement.

 

For teams to be successful in a church or ministry, leaders must be actively involved in the process. They cannot simply designate teams to do the work that needs to be done and then walk away. They must provide direction, follow up with team leaders, and be available to support and encourage them as needed.  If leaders fail to do this it will inevitably result in poor results, ineffective ministry and a waste of resources. Effective leaders are those who build teams that are focused, that work together, and that share their gifts to the glory of God!

Communication

Do You Hear What I Hear?

 

Hearing

“If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”

1 Corinthians 14: 11

 

One of the most important skills that a leader must develop is that of good communication. Effective communication is an essential foundation for effective leadership. Without good communication skills, a leader is unable to motivate others to follow his vision from the Lord for the ministry they have been called to. A leader with strong communication skills can often succeed where others have failed simply by being able to better explain or convey the need, plan and purpose of a particular project or activity.

What is communication? Communication is the process of conveying information, thoughts, or opinions from a sender to a receiver with the use of a medium in an attempt to create shared understanding.  Communication can be either verbal or non-verbal, and the medium can be speech, gestures, writing, signs, sounds, touch, or body language! There are also two types of communication. The first is Sender-focused, as in lectures or speeches, which is a one-way communication intended simply to inform another person or group of something with no response expected or requested.  The second is Receiver-focused, where the intent is to engage someone else in a dialog and where a response is expected. For there to be effective communication, both the Sender and Receiver must participate.

The Bible itself is a form of communication.  It represents God’s Word to all people. The style God uses is Receiver-focused because He wants us to dialog with Him.  Whether His communication to us is an overt command or rebuke or if He speaks to us more subtlety through nature, events, or silence, or ultimately through the loving words and actions of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his gift of Grace – his communication is always for us and not against us.  God also wants to dialog with us through prayer and meditation on His Word. Communication with God is called prayer, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we should “pray continually.”  That means we should not only speak to God regularly, but we should also be ready to listen to Him and receive His Word for us. Like Samuel says in 1 Samuel 3:11, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!”

There are 4 principles of effective communication.  First, we must be Clear. We must speak with confidence and avoid generalities and vagueness.  The best communication is specific and intentional for its audience. The sender should not leave anything open to interpretation. The second is to be Concise. We should always strive to be as brief as possible and to the point, and avoid straying off-topic or bringing up irrelevant information. We should always speak to be understood, not to be heard!  The third principle is to be Open & Honest. We should endeavor to give out all the information we have and avoid being evasive or leaving out critical details.  This often causes confusion and the feeling that we are hiding something. The fourth and final principle is to be Frequent.  Regular, frequent communication sets a tone of caring and involvement.  Repetition produces recollection and regular communication builds stronger and deeper relationships.

So, if we want to become better communicators, we must develop the ability to clearly express a message in various forms of communication, including conversational speaking, writing, public speaking and formal presentations.  We can’t always be good at each form of communication, but we should try to improve where we can. We must also show a genuine interest in people and their needs. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”  We must learn to see things, and communicate, from the other person’s perspective, and to be sincere and compassionate. We should also be more discerning and intuitive, reading body language and other signs so that we can determine if our message is being understood. And it is imperative that we must become better listeners so that we can understand the other person’s point of view and more effectively dialog together.

Finally, we must always remember that the goal of communication is not to win arguments, but to communicate ideas and messages clearly and effectively, so that there is mutual understanding.

Managing Change

Is It Time For a Change?

 

Change ManagementSomeone once said that the only thing that never changes is change itself.  It seems that everything is changing all the time.  Just when you get into a routine, something changes that causes us to alter our plans and schedules.  Change is inevitable. And the wise leader and manager anticipates change and adapts to it.  Failure to adapt to change in our culture, our environment, or our ministries, will inevitably cause us to lose momentum. Staying the same while the world around us changes may give us peace and some level of comfort, but it will also leave us behind.  Ministries that fail to seize the opportunities that change brings will soon become out of touch with the world and have little to offer it in the way of meaningful value.

Think about some of the changes our world has undergone recently. For example, as I travel the world, it seems that everyone has a cell phone today, even in the remotest parts of Africa!  And many of those phones are smart phones, meaning that they also have access to the internet and social media, not to mention the functions of a camera and mp3 player.  Communication has accelerated at a mind blowing pace and the use of technology is an essential part of our world now and shows no signs of slowing down.  Similarly, the internet has opened up communication and information to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. Everyone has access to real time information, whether it is news, history, facts, books or people. We can shop on-line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any question you can think of can usually be answered by a simple google search.  And if you don’t know what that is, you are seriously out of touch with the world today. Transportation has also become more affordable and accessible, meaning that people can travel the world with relative ease.

So learning how to manage change is important because we must deal with it every day. As Christians, we need to know where God wants us to be.  We need to seek God’s will to know if we are where we are supposed to be.  Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Sometimes God brings change into our lives to lead us in a new direction that He wants for us. We also need to understand change so that our message of the gospel remains relevant to those we are trying to reach.  So as the culture changes we must adapt.  The Apostle Paul said it well when he said  in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”  And change may also open up new opportunities for ministry, and we need to be able to seize them as they arise. And finally, change often helps us realize that some of our ministries are no longer effective and must be dropped or significantly revised.

Here are some basic principles for managing change:

1.  Change is Inevitable.  Nothing truly stays the same. And without change there is no future!

2. Change is Normal.  Everything changes, including people, cultures and even the earth itself. God built change into all of His creation. And without change, there is no growth!

3.  Embrace Change.  Those who adapt to change prosper. Change will grow you.

4.  Anticipate Change.  Prepare for change so that you can adapt more readily.

5.  Seek Change.  Be thinking ahead. Do not be content with the way things are.  Always be seeking to improve or get better.

6.  Master Change.  Become good at embracing, anticipating and seeking change.  It will improve your flexibility as a church or ministry.

So how do we manage change? Well, here are some things to consider when faced with a change .  First, identify what is changing.  Is the change permanent or just a fad?  Is it a structural or cultural shift?  Is it a local or national/global change? Second, determine the impact of the change on your ministry. Is it important to the way you function? Does it impact the way you present the gospel? Is it important to people? Third, determine if you need to adapt.  Will this change impact our ability to minister to others? Will it increase our effectiveness? Will it help us reach more people? Fourth, develop  a plan to adapt to the change. Do you have time to analyze what to do? Is the change happening now or very soon?  Do you have the resources to adapt?  What might happen if you make the change?  What happens if you do not adapt? Fifth, implement the change plan.  Who will lead the change? How will we communicate the change? When is the best time to make the change? Sixth, review your results. How has the change affected our ministry? Have we seen any benefits from the change? Has it made us more responsive or effective?

We must not fear change nor ignore it.  Change is part of life and the world in general. Only when we face it head on and determine how best to respond can we avoid being left behind or being left out.

So let us all pray that the Lord will open our eyes to the changes around us and give us the wisdom to discern if we must adapt to the changes, and if so, give us the courage and strength to change!

 

 

Honoring God With Our Decisions

Decision

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s often said that life is nothing more than a series of choices.  We make decisions every day and every moment of our lives.  Some are trivial but others can turn out to be quite significant. We are where we are today because of the choices we have made in the past.  They may be choices about what college to go to, what career to pursue, what job to take, who to marry, or where to live.  All of these decision have led us to the place we are today, whether right or wrong.  And some decisions are irrevocable.  In other words, they cannot be undone.  Decisions such as having an abortion, committing suicide, or speaking your mind on Facebook! All decisions have consequences!

We cannot change the past but we can influence the future.  Our future will depend upon the choices we make from this moment forward.  Even if we have made bad choices in the past, God forgives us and gives us the opportunity to make better choices for our future.  The choices we make from now on, therefore, will have a significant impact on our lives, both personally and professionally.   God gives us one day at a time to live and no one knows (except God) what tomorrow will bring.  So, we can either influence our future for good or for bad.  The choice is up to us.  Making good decisions will honor God and will bring blessings into our lives.  Making bad decisions, on the other hand, will usually result in our suffering and will also dishonor God.

Have you ever noticed how great leaders seem to always make the right decisions?  I believe that leaders become great because of the great decisions that they make.    And those decisions are not always popular either, but they end up being right in the long run.  Leaders who make poor decision generally do not last very long.  So what constitutes a great decision?

There are 7 principles we must acknowledge when we are making decisions:

1.  All decisions have consequences.  Good decisions honor God and bless us.  Bad decisions dishonor God and result in sin and suffering.

2.  Decisions are only as good as the information they are based upon.  As is often said, garbage in, garbage out.  If you don’t have all of the facts, or you assume too much, you will likely make a poor decision.

3.  Not making a decision is a decision.  Sometimes any decision is better than no decision.  Procrastination about a decision causes confusion and may mislead others.

4.  If you don’t make a decision, someone else will.  If you delay in making an important decision someone else may step in and make it for you.  This could undercut your authority and create more problems because they will generally have less information than you have.

5.  Decision outcomes are not always proportional to decision importance. Sometimes small decision can have a major impact while large decisions have a minimal impact.  Just think of King David’s small decision to take a walk on the roof one night and what that simple and minor decision led to.

6.  Do not make decisions when you are tired, pressured or under great stress.  Under these circumstances you cannot think clearly and risk making a poor decision.  Get away, get rest, or take some time to clear your head so that you can think more clearly.

7.  Our decisions never change God’s will.  God never changes and His plan for us never changes. Proverbs 19:21 says “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  So it is important for us to align ourselves with God’s will so our decisions will be good ones.

So how do we become better decision makers?  First, pray and ask God to give you His wisdom.  He promises that He will and it will enable us to align our thoughts with His. Second, gather as much information as you can before you make a decision.  Get the facts and do not assume. Take the time to get it right.  Third, seek the counsel of others that you trust.  The Bible says in Proverbs 15:22 that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Input from others can often save us from making big mistakes.  Fourth, organize your decisions every day.  Either delay them, delegate them or decide them. But do not procrastinate. Fifth, don’t delay important decisions.  Agonizing over a decision wastes time and may cause you to miss an opportunity.  And finally, handle interruptions quickly.  Either delay, delegate or decide them. Do not allow interruptions to cause you to make a poor decision.

God desires that we all make decisions that honor Him and bring Him glory. And He waits for us to come to Him and ask Him for His wisdom.  So let us all strive to become better decision makers so that we both honor God and receive His blessings in return!!

Yes, You Have the Time!

Time Management

In our Management For Church Leaders™ training we teach about time management. Time is one of the resources that God gives each individual to use as they choose.  In fact, it is the one resource that is non-renewable.  Once it is gone or used up it is gone forever.  You cannot buy more time nor can you re-use the time you have been given.  Furthermore, none of us knows exactly how much time we will have in our lives and so time is a precious and exhaustible resource.

In America, time is very valuable and so we attempt to maximize the use of our time towards things that are important for us.  As the old saying goes here, “time is money”! That goes back to the importance our culture places on work and earning a living to build a financially prosperous life. But Americans also place a very high value on our children, whether it is education, music or sports. Parents spend a lot of time shuttling their kids to soccer practice, music lessons or school activities.

But the rest of the world does not necessarily operate with that same attitude.  Many places I travel time is valued much differently.  Other cultures value leisure time and family time much more than money, work or sports. They do not see time as solely an opportunity to make money, but rather to build relationships and live life more fully.  So you would think that they would not want any training on how to manage their time more effectively since time does not carry the same level of importance as it does in America.

But that is not the case.  Church leaders from other nations do want to learn how to use their time more wisely. They know that the Bible says in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  They want to be more effective time managers. They just don’t focus on money as the main objective.  The principles of time management can help them determine how best to use their time for their benefit and for God’s purposes.

There are 3 types of people when it comes to using time.  First, there are time wasters.  These type of people do not use time wisely and often use their time to do things that are either non-productive or wasteful. At the end of the day they wonder why nothing got done.  Second, there are time spenders.  These type of people use their time to spend on things they enjoy doing, like sports or entertainment.  But it has no lasting value nor produces anything tangible.  Thirdly, there are time investors.  These type of people use their time to invest in learning new things, developing their skills, building relationships or helping others. They see value in helping grow a business, helping others succeed, or serving those in need.  God wants us all to be time investors and to be producing something of eternal value for the His Kingdom!

The key principle about time management is that managing time is about managing priorities.  We all spend our time on things that are important to us, or the priorities in our lives.  If it is making money, then that is our priority.  If it is spending time with family, then that is our top priority.  Every single one of us uses our time according to what is important to us at that time.  Every minute of every day we are making choices about what to do with our time.  And whatever is most important usually gets our time.  And sometimes that is a nap, or reading a good book, or watching a movie! And in most cases we are in control of our own lives and get to choose how to spend our time.

So, when you ask someone to do something with you or for you and they tell you they do not have the time, that is NOT TRUE!  They have the time.  What they are really telling you is that there is something more important they either need or want to do at that time.  I recall as a teenage boy when I asked a girl out on a date she told me she could not go because she had to wash her hair.  I think you get my point! (I certainly did…)

So to get the most out of the time we are given we must establish the right priorities for our own lives.  We must learn to value the truly important things. As Christians, God expects us to value the things that He values, like love, holiness, service to others, family, humility, witness, faith, and Jesus Christ, to name just a few. When we have these priorities straight then God will indeed bless us and use us mightily for His kingdom building.  We will become His time investors.  And we will live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us as He states in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!”

Yes, you have the time!  But let us be time investors and use our time to serve God and others and live life to the full!