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Month: May 2018

Move over, Moses, Jeremiah Has Something to Say

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, and Professional Church Worker Experiences

Coaching Professional Church Workers is one of the most rewarding careers on the planet! I’m profoundly inspired by the deep dedication Christian leaders have for God and His people. I am also amazed at the selfless determination Christians have to fulfill their call to bless people for whom Christ died. Although Christian ministry is rewarding, it is also often stressful.

My question is this: Can we do ministry better? Is it possible to serve Christ and be filled with optimistic hope at the same time? Is it possible to work in such a way that our efforts produce a crop “yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23)?

I say “Yes!”

Moses was one of the most important and impressive people who ever lived. He was the one through whom God communicated His Ten Commandments; Moses led Israel from the enslavement of the Egyptians to the Promised Land; Moses was the one that wrote down the words of the Torah; and Moses demonstrated greatness in other countless ways!

Yet Moses, at one time, tried to do everything himself. He was the one-man educational and judicial system for a community of millions. He would listen to every single issue, complaint, and problem a wandering nation of millions ever had. And Moses was at the edge of his ability to cope. If things didn’t change, Moses would soon become so emotionally and physically depleted he would be of no use to anyone.

Along comes Jethro, his father-in-law. “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17). Moses, one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament, was being taught by this Priest of Midian how to multiply his ministry. In business and in non-profit organizations, this is called delegating.

Jethro said: “select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:21-23).

OK, so we’ve heard this before. Delegate, raise up additional leaders, recruit and train and deploy. Great. Frankly, it’s easier to do the work myself!

Jethro is NOT teaching Principles of Organizational Management

What’s really going on in Exodus 18 is the start of a reformation of the way God and His people interact. If we fast-forward to the time of Jeremiah, we read the prophecy that promises what God will yet do (31:33-34), ““I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.

Delegating is GREAT!

When we delegate as we should, great things happen for leaders AND among those we lead. As with Moses, when we learn to effectively delegate, our capacity to fulfill our call becomes possible. And, the people to whom we delegate find joy and fulfillment. Afterall, people were created to contribute and make a difference. When we can’t for whatever reason, we are slightly diminished as a person. Additionally, by delegating, more gets done, more people are served and we realize greater advancement toward our goals. All good!

Delegating isn’t enough!

Delegating is exceedingly powerful, but there’s something even better. Partnership.

Which is better, being given responsibility or being asked to join a partnership? A partner has “ownership” in the organization. A partner transitions from someone to whom we delegate labor to a stakeholder, someone who has ownership. That’s a very powerful transition!

God calls His people into partnership, an infinitely powerful relationship. Christian ministry is best built in partnership with people in the Church. Effective delegating empowers people to greatly expand the ministry. But God calls us into partnership with His Son. He makes us heirs, co-workers with Jesus. God refers to us as His children; sons and daughters in the family business, co-heirs with Christ, partners in the Gospel, fellow laborers (along with Paul, Peter, James, John, and the other Apostles, Disciples, Evangelists, Teachers, every first-century Christian through whom God established His Church).

When Christian leaders lead by inviting people into partnership with themselves as leaders and co-leaders in Christ, they are leading as Moses learned to lead and they are fulfilling, in part, the prophecy of Jeremiah 31: “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Moses’ activity of delegating was the prelude to what God was fleshing out in Jeremiah (which reached its greatest expression at Pentecost). This is the foundation of God’s earnest desire for all His people, partnership with Christ.

By empowering others as God has empowered you as leader, you deeply impact those you lead. Your investment in their lives will create a ripple effect throughout their lives that will continue into the next seven generations (at least). This is the ministry to which the Christian leader has been called.

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Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes Christian Leadership Matters blog each week. Christian Leadership Matters is a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry with which they are connected. As “The Higher Calling Coach,” Dr. Pledger helps Professional Church Workers and the ministries they serve find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

If you don’t want to miss his blog posts, sign up for his newsletter at:  www.TheHigherCallingCoach.com. Email Coach Phil at: Phil@TheHigherCallingCoach.com if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.

Christian Leadership Matters — How to Lead Like Fred Astaire!

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, and Consulting

I use to think (and even taught) that I would never ask anyone in my ministry to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do. There is (almost) nothing in Church work that I haven’t done at one time or another. More than once, I vacuumed the sanctuary at 6 am on a Sunday morning. I’ve washed windows, been responsible for taking out trash, been the musician on Sunday morning, preached, taught the Adult Class, and, at the end of the day, the one who locked all the doors and set the alarm.

Although the principle might sound noble or even spiritual, I was cheating a lot of people by being the one-man-show.

Ministry is an “us” event. And a leader that isn’t willing to equip, deploy and trust others as partners in ministry isn’t doing their job. But in order for that to happen, the leader needs to understand his/her unique role and know when to step in and when to step aside. Leadership is like dancing a waltz not a military maneuver (or a one-man-show).

The Duet Dance Studio in Chicago provides great lessons in ballroom dancing. [You can find their website here: http://duetdancestudio.com/blog-dance-lessons-chicago/leading-following-ballroom-dancing] Their front page not only gives good dance advice, but also good leadership advice by providing the answers on “HOW TO LEAD LIKE FRED ASTAIRE

 

  1.    Maintain a Strong Frame

Szewai, the author of the article, states: “The dance frame is the most important thing in lead and follow as it helps you maintain the connection between you and your partner. Your frame should be firm and steady at all times.”

As a leader, know your strengths, take the lead. Your “dance partner,” the one(s) you are leading, need to have confidence in you and what you are trying to accomplish. Good dance leaders engender trust with their partner. For that to happen, you must know who you are, where you are going and have confidence in yourself.

  1.    Take Decisive Steps

“Accidents often happen when the driver isn’t sure where he/she is going and is being hesitant with his/her moves” writes Szewai. Good leaders know their organizational direction; they know their objectives and take strategic steps toward accomplishing those objectives.

  1.    Lead with Your Body

Leaders must be “all in.” Good leaders, like good dancers, don’t have the luxury of merely telling others what to do; leaders lead by what they do, not only by what they say. People may not be able to articulate why they know their leader is completely committed, but most people do know that a leader is committed. Good leaders (to use a cliche) “walk the walk.”

  1.    Be Gentle

Leadership, like dancing, should be enjoyable, rewarding, and even fun. Good leadership is also enjoyable, rewarding and fun for those we lead. If not, there’s something wrong. Too many Christian leaders don’t lead like Fred Astaire, but mandate like Genghis Khan or “fiddle while Rome burns.” Being gentle doesn’t mean you have low ministry standards, but neither does it mean we throw someone off the dance stage if they step on our toes now and again.

  1.    Listen to Music

This is the most important part to Christian leadership, listen to and follow the music. Every Christian has a copy of The Score, God’s Word. God’s Score is conducted by His Holy Spirit, and Christian leaders keep their ears open and closely follows the conductor’s lead. When we dance to a different tune, we’re out of step with God’s Spirit and the people we are called to lead become confused, and toes are mashed and people trip and fall — including the leader.

Jesus certainly danced well, even better than Fred! His dance moves were innovative and for the casual spectator, often unexpected. Here are some of the ways Jesus taught by example how to “dance” the leadership dance:

  • He Chose unlikely partners, some with poor resumes, even those with poor people skills; but Jesus invested Himself into the lives of these unlikely characters and grew His Church.
  • Though God-in-the-flesh Jesus still washed His followers stinky feet. He loved His people and demonstrated true Christian leadership.
  • Jesus always had laser-focused vision; He encouraged His people to do the same.
  • The disciples were partners in the Gospel; they were co-heirs with Christ. His disciples were given great responsibility as well as ownership and trust.
  • Jesus constantly spent time listening to The Music; praying and listening to His Father and doing His will.
  • People were more important to Jesus than human traditions, rules, customs and regulations.
  • Jesus expected a lot from those who followed Him, but He was also eager to forgive and trust again.

I know ministry isn’t always fun and games. Serious and difficult work needs to be done and there will be times when we we will cry out as did the Psalmist and ask: “How long, Oh, Lord, How long?” At the same time, however, no matter what happens, God has given each of us something that no one can ever take away from us. In Christ, we have forgiveness, His continued presence and Divine Hope. And no one and no thing can ever take that away from us.  

I encourage you, dear reader, to lead with that joy no one can take away, fully confident in who you are in Christ, and proceed forward in your ministry full of faith in the One who has redeemed you and has entrusted to you the opportunity to bring about that same joy in those we are called to serve. May God grant each of us grace in Christ Jesus!

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Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes
Christian Leadership Matters blog each week. Christian Leadership Matters is a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry with which they are connected. As “The Higher Calling Coach,” Dr. Pledger helps Professional Church Workers and the ministries they serve find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

If you don’t want to miss his blog posts, sign up for his newsletter at:  www.TheHigherCallingCoach.com. Email Coach Phil at: Phil@TheHigherCallingCoach.com if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.

Christian Leadership Matters — Introduction

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, and Consulting

Introduction

David Kinnaman, a “Preacher’s Kid” and the President of the Barna Group writes:  “I came away from my childhood with a pretty accurate slogan for church ministry: Where you control nothing and are responsible for everything.” (Page 7, The State of Pastors.) The statement is obviously not literally true, but for every Professional Church Worker, it certainly feels true at least some of the time. All the more so as we struggle to make sense of a rapidly changing culture and frustrating trends of Church attendance and general attitudes about commitment.

Complicating the issue? Barna’s The State of Pastors reports (page 9):

  • More than one-third of pastors are at high (11%) or medium (26%) risk of burnout.
  • Two in five tally high (27%) or medium (16%) on the risk metric for relational problems.

I don’t have hard data on other Professional Church Workers, but it stands to reason that if the organizational leaders are at high risk, those serving in that same organization are also at risk, perhaps even more so. Do you sometimes feel as though you are responsible for EVERYTHING but control NOTHING? Do you feel as though you are at risk of BURNOUT? Are the people closest to you encouraging or depleting your reserves and effectiveness?  There are steps you can take that will make your life better, reenergize your Call as a Professional Church Worker, and help you grow in your leadership effectiveness. That’s the goal of Christian Leadership Matters!

Christian Leadership Matters is a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers find leadership and ministry clarity and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry with which they are connected. It is my intent to provide relevant and practical leadership principles that can be used personally, shared with your leadership team (Church, School, Non-profit Organization), or discussed at various leadership forums in which you participate.

Practical and Useful

So, to get started:  No matter how much formal education we have had, no matter how many years of experience, it never hurts to re-examine the basics. First, then, the question: “What is Leadership?” In less than one second, Google posted more than 339 MILLION web links to that topic. And, the web answers are all over the map! Being somewhat selective, here are a few examples:

  • Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. [Link]
  • A leader is the one in charge, the person who convinces other people to follow. A great leader inspires confidence in other people and moves them to action. [Link]
  • Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.
  • Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
  • Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

More central to Christian leadership:

  • Dr. J. Robert Clinton, Prof. of Leadership & Extension @ School of World Mission, Fuller; in his book The Making of a Leader, p. 197:  “A leader, as defined from a study of biblical leadership, and for whom we are interested in tracing leadership development is a person (1) with God-given capacity and (2) with God-given responsibility to influence (3) a specific group of God’s people (4) toward God’s purposes for the group.” p. 202
  • Henry and Richard Blackaby: “Spiritual leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda.”

I gravitate toward Blackaby’s definition because it is so succinct, but what’s practical and useful at the moment will be for the reader to consider and formulate a definition that suits you, that expresses your particular giftedness, attitudes and personality (and, of course, staying in bounds of Scripture). Become an expert in that to which you have been Called. As a Professional Church Worker, you have been Called to Lead. Exactly WHO you lead, how many, the age group of those you lead, direct lines of responsibility, etc., are determined by the terms of your Call, but by definition, a Professional Church Worker IS Called to Lead.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, a definition of a leader is more connected with his/her attitudes, adaptability, and actions (each of these three concepts will be a focus of a future blog). A true leader is in what a person consistently DOES, not the title printed on the business card. There are a number of great books and assessments that focus on what a leader consistently does as leader. In future blogs I will share additional leadership resources, tools, and concepts. Here’s one great resource:

Leadership Practices Inventory (referred to as LPI) by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is a great place to start. Kouzes and Posner focus on: “The Five Practices” of Exemplary Leadership:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart  

Kouzes and Posner believe that leadership is a skill that can be taught and (of course) learned. Their website is here. Their approach, though “secular” in nature, lends itself very well to the Professional Church Worker environment. You can take this inventory online. To make the most of these results, you will benefit from a certified and professional Coach.   [I just happen to be one; contact me via my website, thehighercallingcoach.com, or directly, Phil@thehighercallingcoach.com]

Becoming a better leader involves learning the basics of responsible Christian leadership and consistently putting these basics into action.  Here is my (still growing) list of leadership principles:

  • Christian Leaders lead from character and integrity.
  • Christian Leaders practice healthy self monitoring.
  • Christian Leaders are powered by the Mission.
  • Christian Leaders invest themselves in the lives of other people.
  • Christian Leaders empower others to reach their fullest potential.
  • Christian Leaders are action-oriented and results-driven.
  • Christian Leaders are lifelong learners.
  • Christian Leaders are adaptable.

With your help, these principles will be fine tuned. What are your leadership principles? What is missing? What is redundant? What is unclear? What do you suggest?

To lead people to the cross and to effectively lead the people of Christ, wise Christian leaders will seek to become Christian Leadership Experts. Christian Leadership Matters intends to be one of the tools that will help you find leadership and ministry clarity and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in your life and in the lives of the people you are Called to serve.

In the coming weeks I will post blogs on general leadership (and sometimes management) topics such as:

If there are topics you would like to include, please add to the Comment section below or email me: Phil@thehighercallingcoach.com.

Until next week,

Blessings in Christ,

–P

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Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes Christian Leadership Matters blog each week. Christian Leadership Matters is a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministries they serve. As “The Higher Calling Coach,” Dr. Pledger helps Professional Church Workers and the ministries they serve find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

If you don’t want to miss his blog posts, sign up for his newsletter at:  www.TheHigherCallingCoach.com. Email Coach Phil at: Phil@TheHigherCallingCoach.com if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.