Developing Leaders

Do These 6 Things If You Have To Have A Hard Conversation with A Staff Member/Leader

I once heard Shawn Lovejoy say, “I’ve never met a leader in all my years of coaching whoever told me, ‘I think I dealt with that issue too soon.'”

He was specifically talking about protecting the vision for the church, but I think it applies across the board of church leadership. In general, as pastors we are hesitant to get out in front of problems out of fear of losing momentum, causing relational problems, or people leaving the church.

There’s probably no area under our leadership that is more difficult to be proactive in than dealing with performance issues with a staff member or volunteer leader. We notice performance is slipping or morale on the team is running low because of a noticeable performance issue by a peer, but instead of dealing with the problem head-on we avoid it. Maybe we drop hints or assume it will get better without a hard conversation, but it never does. Problems don’t go away they grow, and a strong leader understands that.

If everyone on your team knows you won’t confront a person who is a problem, that person is no longer the problem, you are. I’m not saying it’s easy. It can potentially be painful, and in some cases, your fears of someone leaving the church may come true, but the only way for you to lead your church in the God-honoring way he is calling you to is to confront issues that need confrontation. (My brother Jason wrote more about confrontational conversations in this post)

If I told you that right now you could confront an issue or person that has been a nagging problem on your team, and you could be confident that there would be no lingering collateral damage, who/what would you address? Unfortunately, I can’t promise you a peaceful resolution, but I can guarantee you that it won’t get better without strong leadership, so whoever you just thought of when I asked the question, is who you need to confront whether it’s easy or not.

So let’s look at 6 keys to having a hard conversation with a leader:

1. Resolve that it has to be done

The longer you wrestle with the need for it, you won’t be in the right mindset to actually have it. You need to get to the place that you believe that it is absolutely necessary for you to have the conversation. And guess what? If you are thinking about a person or situation right now…you need to have the conversation. The longer you leave it festering, the worse it will get.

2. Put yourself in their shoes

Can you be honest enough to see that their issue may have been improper or insufficient training or resourcing on your part? Are you able to step into their shoes, play out the conversation that needs to take place and hear their rationale?

The desired outcome of the impending conversation isn’t that you win, it’s that we find resolution and the problem gets solved. So the more I can see all sides before us sitting down the better prepared I am to work toward the desired outcome.

3. Document the issue(s)

There may be a lot of frustration in your head, but if you can clear all of that away for a few minutes and try to document the actual issues clearly, there may only be one or two things. Be specific. Don’t write down “lazy.” Document times where they’ve been late, left early, or underperformed and didn’t meet the expectations. Include any previous conversations where these issues were discussed, and a course of action was agreed upon.

4. Pray

Ask the Lord to go before you. Ask Him to prepare the other person for the conversation. Ask for the grace to deal with the person and not the issues alone. Listen to His voice to guide you in anticipation of what you would say and not say.

5. Just do it

Schedule the meeting (maybe that should have been another point, but don’t just pop into their office or catch them in the hall after church on Sunday.) Put it on the calendar and let them know you want to discuss a few things that aren’t going as well as you’d like, or need improvement. This will help them be in the right mental, and emotional state is necessary for a productive conversation. Talk through your concerns and give them space to respond. Try to stay on topic. Don’t let the discussion get pulled into areas that aren’t relevant to the issues at hand. Make sure that the concerns you documented previously are discussed. Talk about specific corrective actions. We can’t just agree that “things will get better.” For everyone to be able to move forward, we need to leave knowing that “you will be to the office by 9am every day unless other arrangements have been made” or “she agrees to meet with her team at least once per month.”

6. Document the solution

If the issue is serious in nature or they are a paid employee, the agreed upon solutions need to be written down and each of you needs to sign it. This is the only way you are protected if a future conversation is necessary to end their employment or make a more substantial change.

If you are dealing with a volunteer, send them an email within 24 hours of the meeting. In the email spell out what you remember from the meeting and what the two of you agreed to. Ask them to respond to let you know they agree to this summary or if they have changes to make.

I realize some of this may sound like overkill or a more corporate approach than what you signed up for in ministry. But I promise these steps will help you have the hard conversations necessary to keep moving forward.

It has been said that “you are just 2-3 hard conversations away from your next level.” Who do you need to have a hard conversation with? Don’t put it off. Work these steps and allow the Lord to grow your leadership as you tackle the hard things. Your team will thank you.

Developing Leaders

A Plan Any Pastor Can Use To Create More Leaders In Your Church

God loves to use previous generations of leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders, and when the church is at her best, we’re really good at it.

You probably learned how to preach under the tutelage of a pastor who trusted his pulpit to you for a Sunday night or midweek service. Even though at the time you believed your preaching quality was high, you squirm when you listen to old recordings now. Imagine what your pastor was thinking at the moment. They had to make the conscious decision to empower you when they could have done the job better themselves. You probably learned how to lead by heading up small fundraisers and mission trips, no doubt causing headaches and leaving messes for your pastor to clean up, but they knew there’s no substitute for experience. Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.” quote=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.”]

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the church, as we know it, was a needle in a haystack. It was a few hundred people in a small radius. In the years that followed it multiplied to thousands and then millions worldwide. Obviously you can’t overstate the role of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God in the expansion of the church, but it would be unwise to ignore the leadership principles modeled by Jesus as well.

Jesus the “healer” was miraculous. Jesus the “Savior” was gracious, and much attention is given to those qualities of Christ, but Jesus “the leader” was intentional. He knew how to recruit and develop a team, and his leadership qualities are often overshadowed. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone praise the delegation skills of Jesus, but He was remarkable. Think about it. Before he attempted to accomplish anything publicly he hand-picked a small group of disciples. He explained his teaching to them and gave them a front row seat to his miracles. Jesus knew that leadership development is more “caught” than “taught.” He understood the power of observation.

What If I Don’t Have the “Right” People?

Any conversation about delegation and leadership development inevitably leads to questions about the quality of the current leaders on your team. The easiest scapegoat if you lack quality leaders in your pipeline is to blame the talent pool. If you had better people you would be able to better develop them, right? When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you because they’re not the finished product you’re looking for. You dream about a future when the right person will help grow your church, but what if you already have the right people? I believe you do.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.” quote=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.”]

1 Corinthians 12:18 is a very convicting verse for all pastors, especially those who struggle with believing they’re missing the “right” people. According to the Apostle Paul,

1 Corinthians 12:18
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

God has provided exactly who you need to accomplish exactly what you’re supposed to do now. In the future, changes will probably need to be made, but that doesn’t limit what God can do now with the people you already have around you. So look around. Evidently, God believes the people with you are the right people for right now. The good news is God has already sent the right people; the challenging news is He leaves it up to you to steward them well. Like me, you’ve spent time desperately praying for God to send the right person through the doors of the church, but what if God already sent them and you’re just looking at the wrong doors? What if God sent them through the doors of the children’s or student ministry? If you look closely, there is probably a teenager with a smart phone who could make a video for your church or a teenager who seems disinterested but loves to play the guitar. The quality might not be great, but with time, opportunity, and investment, the upside is.

Delegate or Dump?

I’ve never met a leader who didn’t desire to delegate responsibilities to someone else on their team, but if you’re not careful delegating looks more like dumping. So how can you empower and effectively delegate? Many great resources have been written to help leaders delegate, but my favorite is a simple five step process we use with our team.

I do. You watch.

This is the first step. You are modeling the tasks that needs to be completed. Your protégé isn’t really helping at all; they are just shadowing you. Be sure to communicate the “why” during this step. By communicating “why” you are not just handing off tasks but you are training them to think as you think, and that’s the key. Those who serve under you may never do things exactly as you do, but if they do something for the same reasons you would, you’re beginning the process of reproducing yourself.

I do. You help.

This is the part of the process where someone else is working alongside you. Go slow! I realize it’s hard. You could move much faster by yourself and probably be more effective, but that would defeat the purpose— they wouldn’t know how to do the job when you step away. Don’t solve problems in your head, solve them out loud. If you let them witness how you solve problems, they will solve future problems without running to you.

You do. I help.

Give up control. Empower them to make decisions. Let them know they are in charge of the task. Depending on their confidence level it may be hard for them to lead you, but force them to do it. The best way to learn something is to teach it. So have them tell/teach you to do it as if you are brand new. Remember, anything you accomplish while they are unaware they won’t know to do themselves or teach someone to do later. Ask a lot of leading “why” questions. Things like: why do you do this first? Why is it important to do this here? They will be able to articulate things they need to know and explain later.

You do. I watch.

In this stage, you are only the fire extinguisher. It’s their job to do and your job to let them do. This is the hardest step for most leaders because they are going to go slow and they are going to make mistakes. Let them. If you can endure this stage, you are more successful than 95% of leaders. The pay off in the next stage is directly proportional to how effectively you can take your hands off in this stage.

I’m out.

Congratulations, you have officially developed a new leader to complete tasks and lead on your behalf. You’ve taken one more step out of doing and into leading. You are now free from the task that you used to do. Stay out of completing the task but stay close enough to offer regular affirmation and encouragement. Now that you have successfully handed something off, what’s the next thing you can train someone else to take off your plate? Whether it was teaching, healing, rebuking or pointing people to the Father, it’s interesting how similar the accounts of the disciples’ ministry are to those of Christ in previous years. Evidently, they were always close enough to take good notes. So, here’s the challenge for you: who’s watching as you do? Who’s helping you do? Who are you helping do? Who are you watching to insure they can be trusted? Answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing leaders around you.

This post was taken as an excerpt from our book “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.

Developing Leaders

4 Conversations A Pastor Should Have Every Week If You Want To Develop More Leaders

When I became a pastor, I incorrectly assumed my job was to make sure all the weekly “church work” was accomplished. After all, I was getting paid to be at the church while everyone else in the congregation had to go to their secular jobs. (That was my first incorrect assumption… I was being paid to be at the church.) Work needed to be done, and since I was at the church, who better to get the job done than me, right?

My intentions were noble, I wanted to be helpful and provide the most value to my church, but my mistake was believing that my value was determined by my productivity. I confidently believed the more tasks I checked off my “get done” list, the more the church would grow and the more people we would reach. I was wrong.

I know it’s hard to comprehend if you find yourself with a long list of ministry tasks that need to be completed and a shortage of help to get the job done. “If I don’t do it, who will?” you’re thinking. It’s a valid question.

  • Who will clean the church building?
  • Who will put the song lyrics in the computer?
  • Who will print and fold the bulletin?
  • Who will design the sermon series graphic, or make the chord charts?
  • Who will lead the small group or community outreach event?

As contrary as it is to everything we believe about senior pastor leadership, the more you “do” as the senior leader of your church the more you hurt the long-term health and potential of your church. It’s ironic, isn’t it? We work so hard to help our church but instead of helping we hurt our church because we accidentally create an organization that is dependent on us.

This idea is not original with me; it’s from the Bible.

Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‬‬
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

According to the Apostle Paul, Christ gave you as a gift to your church. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true. Christ gifted you to your church so that you can equip God’s people to do his work.

That sounds like a different job description than most pastors I know. Yes, according to Ephesians pastors have a responsibility, but it’s not to “do” the work of the church, it’s to equip people to do the work of the church. Here’s the best part, when you do your job, and they do their job, the church of Jesus Christ is built up. You build the church when you build people.

If I was to interrupt your tireless work one day and ask you, “why are you doing all those tasks?” You would probably say, “I’m trying to build a church.” I get it, I want to build a great church too, but great churches aren’t built by a talented senior pastor, great churches are built by an empowering senior pastor. Talent doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the main criteria or responsibility of the pastor. The main responsibility is to equip people. And before you think the senior pastor is getting out of work, it’s way harder to empower someone else to do a job than to do it yourself. Way. Harder. (I wrote more about how your talent hurts your church in this post.)

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors” quote=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors”]

A Pastor’s Job Description

So if you’re job isn’t to complete tasks, what is your job? There are many different ways to answer that question, and the answer can vary depending on the various spiritual gifts of the leader, but at its core, I believe every senior pastor (or team leader) has one job more important than any other. Your job is to be the CCO, the chief communicating officer.

When I say communication, don’t just think of preaching, or talking from the stage, what I’m talking about is WAY more important than that. Empowering leaders are always communicating: vision, expectations, encouragement, and correction.

One of the reasons it’s easier to get the job done yourself is because it doesn’t require communication; you know what you want, and you know how to get it done, or at least you can figure out how to get it done. To equip and empower someone else requires instruction, patience, and probably settling for a finished product of less quality than you could have done, and that’s hard. But when you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.” quote=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.”]

How Do I Do That?

One of the best ways to gauge how effectively you are equipping and empowering your church is to look at your calendar. As you review your previous week or plan the week ahead, how are you spending the majority of your time? Are you accomplishing tasks by yourself or are you meeting with people? Are you spending most of your time on a laptop computer or sitting across the table having a conversation with someone. Of course, you need time to study and invest in yourself, but in general how often are you communicating with people?

To identify, recruit, train, and empower leaders to do the work of ministry requires intentional leadership. Think of it as being the lead car of a caravan on the interstate. You are leading the way, but you can’t drive so fast that you leave everyone, and you also can’t drive so slow that it takes you too long to arrive at your destination. When you are the lead driver of a caravan, you are regularly checking the rearview mirror. Are the people who need to be with you, with you? Is anyone falling behind? Did anyone exit without telling you? Does anyone need to stop and take a break? In a way, pastoring is continuously checking the rearview mirror. You set the pace, but a great leader makes sure he is being followed.

In a perfect world you would cast the vision, ask for help, empower the leader and never need to check back in, but ministry is not a perfect world, it’s messy because people are messy. The leaders you empower need to be challenged and celebrated. They need clarity and correction. That’s where your job as CCO comes in. A pastor should have at least 3, maybe 4, kinds of conversations every week. These conversations help to reinforce vision, provide clarity and instruction, and show care to the people you lead. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many meetings you should have; you get to decide, so pick times and formats that enable you to be at your best and make sure to have these conversations every week, so everyone arrives at the final destination together.

1. Clarifying Conversations

Clarifying conversations do exactly what it sounds like they do, they provide clarity. You have staff members, volunteers, and church members who need clarity this week, and you can give it to them. Maybe you need to clearly define their role on the team or their responsibility on the weekend. Maybe you need to clarify the vision because they’re not sure why you’re so committed to how you do do what you do. You probably have a new Christian in your church who needs clarity on spiritual questions. They need answers to Bible questions or instruction for how to overcome a spiritual battle. Does one of your volunteer leaders need a solution to a recurring problem, could you provide a solution that would help them stay committed and encouraged?

Think of clarifying conversations as releasing a small amount pressure from a kettle so that frustrations, hard feelings, or confusion, don’t build up and blow up one day. Great leaders are continually reinforcing values, vision, and expectation.

Go ahead and write down 3 names of people on your team or in your church who would benefit from a clarifying conversation this week. Set up a time to meet. By the way, don’t invite them to a “clarifying meeting,” invite them to coffee. Talk about their job, their kids, their hobbies. Have a 30-minute conversation and spend the last 5-10 minutes clarifying. Your agenda is not the material it’s the person sitting across the table from you. Invest in them and then clarify for them. Over time you will see them develop into an equipped and empowered leader.

2. Challenging Conversations

Challenging conversations are exciting because it gives you the chance to challenge someone to be more than they are settling for. A challenging conversation may be a hard conversation, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe there is a person in your church who has been faithfully serving in a minor role, but you see potential leadership in them, take them to coffee and challenge them. Do what Dave Ferguson calls an ICNU conversation. It sounds something like this, “Sarah, I’ve watched how you’ve faithfully served the last few months in the kid’s department, and you’ve done such a great job. I want you to know that I see potential in you. I believe God has more in store for than just serving as a teacher’s assistant.” A challenging conversation may be out of concern. “Hey Joe, I’ve noticed you’ve been distant lately. Is everything ok? Is there anything I can do to help? I get worried when people get distant because I’ve seen too many people fall away. I want to challenge you to stay committed. God has big plans for your life.” You’re not confronting them; you’re challenging them. I bet you are the leader you are today because someone who loves you had a challenging conversation with you.

Think of challenging conversations as coaching. Every great coach knows how to motivate their players and push them to perform at their best. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but the coach always has the players best interest at heart. I think one of my favorite and most awkward examples of a challenging conversation is found in Acts 16 when the Apostle Paul invites his new pupil Timothy to join him on his ministry trip.

Acts 16:2-3
“…so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.”‭‭‬‬

Ouch! Can you imagine that conversation? “Timothy I know you’re not a jew, and you’re already in college, but I see great potential in you, and I think if you got circumcised it would grow your influence.” Now that’s a challenging conversation.

Go ahead and set up 1 or 2 challenging conversations this week. Is there someone who doesn’t realize the call God has on their life yet? Is there someone who is underperforming and needs to be motivated? When you take time to intentionally challenge them you are leading them to fulfill their God-given potential; it doesn’t get any better than that.

3. Confronting Conversations

Hopefully, you don’t need to have confronting conversations often, but if you’re leading people, you will undoubtedly be required to confront people and issues at times. No one likes confrontation, not normal people anyway. The fact that you don’t want to confront someone lets you know that your heart is in the right place to help them. Is there a team member who has consistently underperformed even after challenging conversations? Is there a church member who is living in blatant sin and needs to be confronted by their pastor who cares about them? Is someone being divisive or leading people astray. When you agreed to be the pastor you agreed to have the hard conversations. If you don’t, who will?

Even the apostles had to confront each other at times. According to Paul, he had to confront Peter for the way he was acting towards the Gentiles.

Galatians‬ ‭2:11‬
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.”

If I told you I had a genie in a bottle and you could confront someone with the guarantee there would be no fall out after your meeting, who would you confront? I don’t have a genie in a bottle, but now you know who you need to meet with. The problem won’t go away, and you’re not kind by ignoring it, you’re selfish. You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level; you just have to get the courage to confront what everyone knows is a problem but refuses to address. You can do it!

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!” quote=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!”]

4. Celebrating Conversations

I saved the best for last. Celebrating conversations are the simplest but most powerful tool you have to build unity, morale, and reinforce vision in your church. You are surrounded by team members and church members who need encouragement. They don’t believe in themselves the way you believe in them. They don’t think they’re doing a good job. They don’t think you notice what they’re doing. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but what gets celebrated get’s replicated, so find people doing what you wish everyone else was doing and make a big deal about it! At our staff meeting, every team member writes 2-3 thank you cards for someone on their team. It’s such a simple thing, but based on the reaction of the people who receive the thank you cards you would think we attached $100 bills. They feel appreciated and motivated to work even harder to build the church.

Clarifying, challenging, and confronting conversations need to be done face to face, but celebrating conversations can be in any format. Go crazy with it. Send 20 text messages today. Write a few thank you cards. Post on someone facebook timeline. You will be surprised how something so small makes such a big difference. You will never celebrate the people around you enough.

It’s counter-intuitive to think that a day with a breakfast meeting, a coffee meeting, a staff meeting, and a lunch meeting is more productive than a day where you cross tasks off your list, but you’re not the help anymore, you’re the pastor. God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people. As you plan your schedule make sure you prioritize conversations; communicate, clarify, challenge, celebrate and confront if necessary. For a while, you will drive home at the end of the day, and wonder “What did I really accomplish today?” You will feel guilty. You’ll think you should be doing more, but you’re doing what only you can do: you are consistently communicating from the top down. The more you equip God’s people to do the work of ministry the more the church and your leadership will flourish. You got this!

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.” quote=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.”]

Developing Leaders

5 Questions You Need To Keep Asking Your Team

In a recent survey reported in Forbes magazine, staff members and subordinates were asked what they wished their boss would do better. The number one answer by far: “Communicate with me.” To be fair, I bet those leaders are communicating with their team members; they just aren’t talking about the right things.

Sometimes Pastors don’t think of themselves as “the boss,” but we are. Even if you don’t have a paid staff, in the church, you lead volunteers who serve in “staff” type roles. So what would our teams say about our communication? I’m not talking about sermons; I’m talking about individual interaction and communication.

If the only communication with our team is what we want to talk about, then they probably don’t look forward to meetings. They don’t only want to hear what we have to say; they want to be able to share with us as well. They don’t want to just talk about “work,” they want to know that you care about them as individuals.

With that in mind, let me share with you 5 questions that I ask my team on a regular basis.

1. How are you doing in life: Spiritually, Emotionally, Physically, Intellectually?

This is more than the trite “how are you doing” we might ask while passing someone in the hallway. I genuinely want to hear about their current spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual state. Sometimes their answer is “I’m doing great” and that’s enough. But other times I’ve had the opportunity to help hold them accountable in areas they feel they struggle such as physical goals, or recommend a book that would help with an emotional issue they were walking through, or pastor them back to spiritual health.

2. How can I pray for you?

When I know how they’re doing, I know how to pray for them. One of my highest privileges as the pastor to my staff is to lift them up in prayer. It doesn’t have to be monumental prayer requests. I want the chance to pray for the health of a sick child, finances to purchase a new home, or the emotional distress of car trouble. I want them to know they aren’t having to shoulder their burdens alone.

3. What do I need to know about the areas that you lead?

This can include so many things. Maybe they had a recent “win” they want to celebrate with me, or maybe there is a volunteer causing trouble and they aren’t sure how to handle it. Perhaps they are considering a change in curriculum or have a budget concern. No matter what it is, this is my way of keeping a pulse on their area before larger problems arise and I might be caught off-guard.

4. What are you working on right now?

This is not a micromanagement question. I’m not as concerned with if they are doing tasks as much as if they are managing their present responsibilities with an eye toward the future that will help us be successful. Depending on their answer I may be able to redirect their efforts toward things that will serve the church better.

5. How can I help you?

Not every leader is comfortable asking this question. They think it makes them look weak, gives authority to those under them or exposes a flaw in the leadership. However, the opposite is true. It requires strength to admit that you may have made a mistake or overlooked something or to position yourself as a servant to those you lead. If there something I can do for one my team members, I want to do it, and I want them to know that I want to do it.

The answers to these questions help me know my team better. Over time they come to know that I’m genuinely interested in them. They open up to me. They trust me. What more can I ask for!