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Category: Purpose

Christian Leadership Matters: When What We Do Doesn’t Work (Part 2)

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Growing Church, Purpose, and Team Building

(Part 2 of 2)

After spending months preparing a comprehensive strategic plan for my congregation. . .  after a LOT of research, prayer, and entertaining deep thoughts, I presented my grand plan to the congregation. I was having a great time at this congregation. The people were (and presumably still are) a delightful bunch. We all enjoyed many hours of mutual joy and substantive Christian fellowship. So, it was with great expectation that I made my presentation. They LOVED it — (“of course,” I thought to myself). They really did love it. The problem? Their response was: “That’s a GREAT plan, Pastor, go ahead and do that!


This speaks to the question I posited last week,  What is a 21st Century North American Christian To Do? I can’t, in all honesty, blame them. There was something lacking in my leadership. Perhaps there were many “somethings” wrong! After months of self blame and self loathing, ultimately I embraced for myself what I suggested to you last week, to  Remember and Re-evaluate:

Remember: The ministry is not yours but God’s.

Remember: You are also a child of God.

Remember: Your limitations.

Reevaluate Your Course.

Reevaluate Your Priorities.

Once one remembers and reevaluates, what activities should almost every Christian congregation be doing that will help us fulfill the Great Commission? What are those activities my congregation is able to successfully engage in, something even “I” can effectively manage? Here is what I have discovered:

Sacrifice. Our culture has, for the most part, tamed the Biblical concept of sacrifice. North Americans live in the wealthiest society in history where sacrifice seems mysterious and extreme. In ancient times people were very familiar with sacrifice. In Biblical times, God’s people were regularly called on to offer their prize-winning breeding animal or their best seed-crop.  Instead of easing up, Jesus intensifies this call of God; we are to be a “living sacrifice” which makes sacrifice exceedingly personal. And there’s nothing more personal than the sacrifice of God; who gave us His own Son and while we were yet sinners, sent Jesus to die for us! There is a strong connection between sacrifice and Kingdom growth.

Sacrifice is an act of faith. If our ministry is to grow in a God-pleasing manner, we will need to become familiar with sacrifice. Growing Christian ministry is not centered on convenience and left-overs. Questions we need to ask include: What do we value above anything? What should we do LESS of? What changes in attitudes or behaviors will honor God? Am I (are we) willing to give as Christ has given to us?

Five Specific Ministry Concepts Growing Ministries Fully Embrace.

Have you noticed that mission congregations attract people who, on average, give more time and money than do people in more established congregations? When I was in a mission congregation, the average giving-per-person was almost double the average giving in more established congregations. Additionally, the average person gave a LOT more time-per-week than the typical member found in older congregations. There are a number of reasons for this, but nothing keeps established congregations from becoming more “mission-like” in their ministry approach. In fact, it is my opinion that every congregation must be very mission-minded, and here are a few concepts that will help:

  1. Manage Change. It’s possible to change and NOT grow, but it’s not possible to grow and NOT change! Change happens with or without our consent, so, we may as well embrace it. Better yet, manage change. How can we manage change?
  2. Expect change. I had a guy come to the church door one day that said he hadn’t been in church in 30 years but he was thinking about coming back; but, he wanted to make sure nothing had changed in 30 years he was gone. I know of no organization that survives remaining unchanged for 30 years. God’s Word is the same, but our culture sure isn’t. . .  expectations change. . . needs change. . . expressions of faith even change in some ways (I remember my Pastor in the 1960’s refused to allow a piano in the sanctuary!).
  3. Be Proactive. Being proactive doesn’t mean you need to be on the “bleeding edge” of trends, but Christian Leaders need to listen, become a student of culture, find ways for people to express their love for God and one another in fresh ways (that still please God). Regardless of what you might think about non-denominational churches, they have certainly found a place in our culture. What is it about the new mega-churches that touch people’s hearts? Listen, pray, plan, be open to changes that honor God and bless His people.
  4. Bless Change. Establish a congregational culture where change is encouraged, but as a Christian Leader, be PART of the discussion. Not every change is good, so be discerning, but find ways to bless any attempt to honor God and edify His people.
  5. Evaluate Change. Give change a chance but seek agreement to evaluate results. Every decision has consequences and there are often unintended consequences. After a trial, evaluate whether the change is ultimately a good one or whether it ought to be modified further.


  1. Offer Multiple Ways to Connect. Church has always been and always will be about relationships; our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. People NEED to belong, that’s how God created us. A congregation that makes connecting difficult will be in decline. Start new groups on a regular basis. It is socially VERY difficult for a new person to enter a room full of people that already know one another well. New people must be invited and quickly and easily made part of the family.

Find ways for non-members and non-Christians to participate. For many this might sound odd or even wrong, but I believe it is not only effective, but Godly. We’re not talking about changing the criteria for becoming a member, but we must establish sanctified places and events where members develop relationships with non-members and non-Christians. Ask yourselves, how do people typically come to know Jesus? Well, I know the proper theological answer is that the Holy Spirit, connected with God’s Holy Word convicts hearts and brings people to the cross. Absolutely true; but usually God uses a weak and flawed vessel to carry His Word and Spirit, people such as you and me.

Similarly, substantively and intentionally minister to people in your community. Listen a LOT to people in your portion of the mission field. I know of missionaries that go into a culture without knowing the language at all, yet, over time, they learn the language and many people come to know Jesus. Your mission field — even in the suburbs — is no different. Listen, get to know people, find out how to pray for them, serve them as God directs. Learn their language (could be an actual language such as Spanish or Korean, but learn also their culture, what they value, fear, worship, despise, etc.). Develop substantive relationships with people without regard to what they might do for you, but consider what Christ will do for them.

New group ideas are plentiful: new members, seekers, parenting, newly single, youth, ESL, various music groups, all kinds of Bible Study groups, confirmation, finance and budgeting, preparing for retirement, marriage preparation, reading the classics, and (if you are courageous) political discussion groups — just to name a few. The potential is infinite; when you get to know your mission field, you’ll know what to offer. The point is, OFFER SOMETHING to get people involved in dialog.

Growing congregations are always starting new groups.

  1. A Culture of Invitation.  While serving a mission congregation “Sara” and her kids came to Church one Sunday morning. Even though Sara didn’t know ANYONE in the congregation, she went around introducing herself and her kids to EVERYONE. Sara was the last person to leave the Church campus that day, and on her way out she said: “Wow, this is the friendliest congregation I’ve ever been to!” When Sara and her family joined this small but growing congregation, EVERYTHING got a LOT better. Although we weren’t the friendliest congregation before Sara, we certainly were after she arrived.

Growing congregations cultivate people like Sara and they create an atmosphere of invitation. The “Sara’s” of the world make life worth living, they bring joy and encouragement wherever they go.

Invite people to get involved, don’t assume people “just know,” about a Bible Study or where the donuts are, invite them. Make it personal by inviting people to go WITH you and encourage other members to invite in the same way. Invite people to a deeper commitment as well. My racquetball partner just recounted the story of how he became and Elder (some 40 years ago); someone invited him to a deeper commitment to Christ and service. Although he was hesitant at first, he began to realize God’s calling through those invitations and said “yes!”. Although it might seem inefficient, God often uses people to do the inviting and encouraging!

  1. Disciple People.  The Great Commission of Jesus is to “make disciples,” not “make members” of all people groups. Growing congregations raise disciples; people growing into Christian leaders, people who place Jesus first in all things, people intently engaged in spiritual growth and ministry deployment.

Yet, most congregations focus on membership rather than discipleship. Why? There are, no doubt, many reasons, but here are a few reasons I’ve thought of:

Discipleship is difficult. There are no two people the same, so we can’t easily use an “off the shelf” discipleship program that works for everybody. (There are many materials that are useful, of course; it’s just that we live in a custom world and often have only off-the-shelf resources.) This means that in order to disciple people, we must be in close relationship with them as individuals. It’s a LOT easier to teach a group than disciple a few.

Most were not trained to Disciple. We ARE trained to teach, preach, lead groups large and small. But few schools and systems teach Biblical discipleship. The easy answer, of course, is to just do what St. Paul did. The difficulty with that simple answer:  to learn to disciple someone we need to be discipled ourselves. Few of us were ever discipled.

Discipleship requires vulnerability. Part cultural and part fear: I have usually preferred a “professional distance” between me and those in the congregation. When we add the word “professional,” emotional distance seems almost noble, but it is not! Christian Leaders are called to be open, allow others to see our good, bad, and even the ugly — to “live out loud” where people will hear our genuine confession and our ache for absolution. Christianity is a life of vulnerability, and that can be unsettling to say the least.

Growing Churches disciple the few, as did Jesus. Those few, in turn, disciple others who later disciple still others. How did the first-century Church grow? To a large part by people becoming both a disciple of Jesus and one who disciples others.

  1. Action Orientation. It is easy to become complacent in a congregation based on “knowing” stuff and not “doing” stuff. Christian Leadership is a call to rally the Church Militant; we are to call people to action. That action might be confession and to hear God’s Word, but it is also a call to much more. By definition, a call to action cannot be a call to “maintain.” [Being an “old time Pastor” I am sensitive to those who’s health or circumstances prevent marching with the Church Militant; at the same time we cannot build a growing congregation solely on those with special needs or those who resist commitment.] Most people in your congregation already know enough to share Jesus with someone else. Most people have enough data (after 20 or 30 years) to TEACH a Bible class. Your Confirmands already have more knowledge about the Bible and about the Christian faith than most college students. After a certain point, learning should be related to the need to address new ministry situations, not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

Where possible, establish a call to action; then anticipate a response from those you lead.

It would be cool if someone could just write an article called something like: “Ten Things to Do To Guarantee Ministry Success” and have it work!  Alas, that’s not how things work. I do stand by what I’ve written, but also know the severe limitations of my puny words. God, however, will lead His people. So, what’s more important than anything I have written is the fact that first and foremost, we must strive to know God as we are known by Him. That, of course, takes an eternity, but through His Word, we can know and practice NOW everything we need to know. I will end this article with words from St. Paul: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13)”


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:


Christian Leadership Matters: When What We Do Doesn’t Work (Part 1)

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Growing Church, Professional Church Worker Experiences, and Purpose

(Part 1 of 2)

Being a Professional Church Worker in the 21st century can be stressful. There are more people than ever in North America that, when asked about their religious preference, respond with “none.” Many congregations are trying to “do more with less,” and consider themselves lean and mean (in a nice way, of course). Where ministry staff was once 15, five remain. Sunday School volunteer numbers have shrunk with the kids. And for many congregations that once depended on quality (or at least competent) pipe-organ-led worship now download hymns and liturgy from the cloud and lead worship by iPad.

But, before we get too mired in self-absorbed sorrow: even facing negative 21st century mega-trends, we most certainly have it a LOT better than most Christian that have ever lived. We haven’t (yet) been stoned for sharing the Gospel in public places; I know of no one in North America that has been arrested for being a Christian; I have no personal stories of persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, nor have I engaged in sword-fights on account of practicing my Christian faith.

In other countries, yes! Even as I write this there are Christians being put to the sword, lose everything for the sake of the Gospel, whose children are kidnapped, houses burned, Christians who’s very lives are taken in the most gruesome way imaginable. Sisters and brothers in Christ, a vast majority of us do not have it so bad.

But even if we did have it bad, consider God’s word through St. Paul in Romans 8:31ff “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . .No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” [ESV]

I’m not trying to minimize the stress we do have; I feel it, everyone who is passionate about reaching people in the name of Jesus feels it. I’ve been at meetings where everyone’s hair is in fire because things aren’t going well for their particular ministry. Everyone who cares about people and the Great Commission can’t help but feel concern when reviewing reports of declining numbers in the ministries we serve. So, my next question is:

What is a 21st Century North American Christian To Do?

I write about Christian Leadership (hence the overall title: Christian Leadership Matters). There are steps leaders can take to address the needs and challenges our ministries face. Those steps will be divided into two articles. This week I will focus on two ideas: Remember and Re-evaluate. Next week’s article will focus on five specific ministry concepts growing congregations fully embrace. First: Remember and Re-evaluate:

Remember: The ministry is not yours but God’s. As smart and as charismatic as you may be, you have never converted anyone! Your winsome personality and hard work has never redeemed anyone; your ability to persuade and create inspiring worship has never turned a lost soul from the road to perdition. That’s all God’s job; something God has declared as His to accomplish; central to God’s creative, redeeming, ongoing miracle.

Remembering who owns The Ministry has been very helpful to me many times over the years. One wise Pastor informed my thinking by saying: “If you are going to take the blame for declining numbers of people in your ministry, you must, to be consistent, take the credit for those being saved as well.Jesus brings people to the cross, I’m called to point people to Jesus.

At the same time, we’re not irrelevant to God’s redemptive plan. God has always called men and women to share in His redemptive process and faithfully connect His Word to hurting hearts. Our weak, inwardly-bent self is redeemed and made strong. Our eyes are re-focused on other people for whom Christ died. And God invites and empowers us to share everything with His Son, to even share in His redemptive invitation. Our words and our actions and our attitudes can be so enamored with Christ that other people cannot help but be drawn to the Jesus they see in us.

Remember: You are also a child of God. Although we are just as flawed as anyone, we are also included in the lavish love of our God. When we share Christ with someone, it is not possible to NOT be filled with hope in Christ. Jesus came for “them,” but (thank God), “them” is also “me.”

Remember: Your limitations. God created His people with many limitations. One of those limitations is that we need rest, sleep, laughter, family time, encouragement, some time to do those things that give us joy. Even God took a day off after working six.  (The Sabbath is God’s gift, not an additional obligation.) Your ministry will not be “successful” by your own efforts anyway, but by the might strength of God and His Word-made-flesh.

Reevaluate Your Course. An important principle of life is this: if you fail to manage your own life well, you will be at the mercy of random events and aggressive or needy people will toss you about and chew you up. You will not like that life.

Life can be complicated. All the more for those called to leadership positions, unless we immerse ourselves in the person and purpose of our Lord Jesus. Although being a Christian will likely only complicate your life on the one hand, there is ultimately only good news: You also have the infinite resources of an eternal God. Infinite always wins over chaos.

As we re-evaluate our lives and and our Call, we must know our “WHY.” Why are you a Professional Church Worker? Why did you take on Christian leadership? What is the “why” that motivates you to dedicate your life to Jesus? If you know your “Why,” you can endure almost any “What” that comes your way. To make this article a little more succinct (and readable), to read more about the “Why,” I will refer you to an earlier article called: “No Matter What, Know Your Why.”

Reevaluate Your Priorities. Just as with individuals, organizations (non-profit, businesses, schools, congregations) need to ask WHY questions as well. So, on this point, I’m making a shift from the leader to the ministry you lead. (Next week’s article will focus on five practical principles that that will help your ministry grow.) Evaluate your existing priorities and re-evaluate where needed. Ask: Why does your school exist? What does your ministry bring to the world that a million other (better funded) ministries don’t already offer? To what has God called your ministry specifically?

I think I could accurately predict your personal values by an audit of how you spend your time and how you spend your money. (I could get an even better picture if I also reviewed the books you read and the TV/Movies you watch.) The same principle holds regarding your ministry or business: To determine what your ministry values, evaluate how you budget and how the people in the organization spend their time. What gets “rewarded” and what gets “punished?” (Or, what gets celebrated and what gets ignored.)

There are no hard and fast rules regarding how much you spend on what. For example,  buildings usually cost a LOT more than developing relationships with the people of your community yet relationships are much more important to God than buildings. But it’s not wrong to invest in buildings and as expensive as they are, buildings are quite valuable to the ministry. That’s where wisdom comes in. But ask: What does your school or church truly value? What ministry, program, building, or practice would cause division if someone tampered with it? If a first-time visitor listens to the announcements, would they be inspired and invited to get involved or would they feel unneeded and unwanted? Is your ministry inward-focused or outward focused?

Part 1 Summary

To Remember means to re-immerse yourself in God’s call to be His daughter or son, to be a child of God FIRST and experience the reality of that relationship before trying to be a leader. To Re-evaluate means to lead from a “fellow-redeemed” perspective, to prioritize everything in your life and in your ministry from Top Down (where God is the One on Top). Sounds easy (and it is on paper) but sin corrupts and kneeling at the cross revives. As always, if you would like to discuss this, email me and we can set up a time to talk.

Next week, part 2, Five Specific Ministry Concepts Growing Ministries Fully Embrace. Between part 1 and part 2 I will have outlined some very specific concepts on what to do When What We Do Doesn’t Work. Until next week. . . .


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:

Christian Leadership Matters: Results Orientation for the Sake of the Gospel

Posted in Accountability, Christian Leadership Matters, Purpose, Team, and Team Building

One of the most powerful things you can do to super-charge your leadership is to cultivate a Results-Oriented ministry team. Too often our desire to be “pastoral” or “loving” or “inclusive” helps create a ministry team that fellowships together well, but who are, ultimately, ineffective leaders. When that happens, little to nothing important gets done.

Although the Leaders of the organization should place high value on being pastoral, loving, and inclusive, it is also important to highly value results for the sake of the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 9:19-23). A results-orientation is also Biblically pastoral, demonstrates Christ-like love, and is infinitely inclusive when done well.
Results orientation has many advantages:

  • The cliche: “What gets measured, gets done” isn’t always true, but true enough. Just because we measure something doesn’t mean we will always hit our goal, but we all know that if we fail to keep score, our “runs batted in” will suffer.
  • High-achievement volunteers have a NEED to keep score. Every leadership team I have ever served on NEEDED additional high-achievement members. If the leader of “St. John’s by the Gas Station” doesn’t lead according to results-orientation, the high-achieving volunteer will be tempted to serve a ministry somewhere else that does.
  • Results orientation will keep your ministry or organization focused on important issues and not get bogged down with trivial pursuits.
  • And the obvious, goals are more likely to be achieved if we hold ourselves accountable for results (not just being busy).

So, how can Christian leaders cultivate results orientation well? I’m glad you asked!

As this is the last in the series of articles based on Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I’ll only briefly summarize the four building blocks to the establishment and maintenance of forming a Results-Orientation team and provide links to the other steps for your convenience.

Step one, build deep trust. (Click the link to read the first article in this series.) Your objective is to build trust: in yourself as leader, in your Board and other leaders, and in the mission of the organization. Without deep and sincere trust, nothing good will happen.

Step two, create an atmosphere of constructive conflict. Your objective is to create a culture of open, honest, creative and highly innovative team members who are willing to take risks in order to accomplish the organization’s mission. You need people to openly share the good, bad, and even the ugly in order to acquire the necessary information to make informed decisions.

Step three, cultivate high-commitment buy-in by everyone on your team. This builds on the first two steps and culminates in a cohesive team able to speak with ONE voice and demonstrate lazer-focus on the mission.

Step four, Create a Culture of Accountability. Accountability in ministry or business is the ability of each individual as well as the group to make commitments and consistently follow through on those commitments. In healthy organizations individuals allow themselves to be accountable to the other members of the team. And the group has the attitude “one for all and all for one” as they have become a highly cohesive team (not a group of free-agents).

Step five of developing a strong and healthy ministry team is to work toward establishing Results Orientation for the Sake of the Gospel.

Establishing a Results-Oriented Ministry Team; Know Your “Why”
The great sports theologian Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” That is so true and is applicable in many situations. If a congregation, business, or non-profit organization has no discernable vision or mission, everyone connected with that organization will ultimately be disappointed. A corollary to Yogi’s statement was written by Lewis Carroll:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. 
‘I don’t know’, Alice answered.
‘Then’, said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’”

It DOES matter which road we take; Christian Leadership Matters a LOT! Having Godly Vision is fundamental to Christian leadership. Being in mission is central to being Christ’s Church. Our exciting opportunity as God’s people is to discover our specific small part to what God seeks to do through His people right here and right now. That is our “Why!”

An Aligned Vision
In healthy organizations every volunteer and staff person embraces the same vision and mission. Under most circumstances, the Leader of the organization creates this aligned vision, this shared purpose. Unless there is an alignment of vision, the organization will not be able to establish the preferred future condition; goal-setting will be impossible. This is an extension of “knowing your WHY.” To align the vision is to allow that “why” to permeate the entire organization. The vision is not aligned if the Board is going East and the Elders are going West and the youth ministry is going North and the men’s group is cemented to the past. To establish results-orientation, everyone will need to be committed to the same ministry direction.

Choose What You Celebrate and What You Mourn
Celebrate: Results over busy-ness. The “ministry” isn’t the three-hour monthly meeting; ministry is what happens between meetings. Meetings are necessary (as well as important and fun) if done well (and they should NOT normally be three hours!). But we meet to report what needs reporting, coordinate our common resources, evaluate and sometimes modify our goals, and empower one another to get back into the trenches. (I’ll focus on how to have GREAT meetings in another article.) The healthy organization elevates and celebrates results; we help one another achieve results, not just stay busy.

Celebrate: What WE accomplished. Celebrate working together as the body of Christ. Christian ministry is more like football than tennis; we all have our respective roles and when the team performs well together, we move the ball toward the goal. Reward organizational results more than individual accomplishments.

Mourn: Counterproductive Behaviors and attitudes. Sometimes individual people are disruptive in either their behavior or their attitude. Set the expectations up front; let everyone know your leadership values (and, of course, consistently live by those values yourself!). Even then, there’s always that one person who thinks they have the spiritual gift of criticism or negativity. Once in a while you’ll come across someone that will ALWAYS put the most negative spin on every decision and discussion. You need to talk privately with them and you might even have to fire them (even though they are volunteers. . . even though their Aunt Matilda is the biggest giver in the congregation). Failure to do so will have long-lasting negative effects on you and your ministry.

Mourn: Unwillingness to Risk. We’re not talking about gambling but calculated, intentional and informed step of faith. It is my opinion that Christian ministries MUST learn to risk all for the cause of Christ. After 2,000 years we have become timid, fearful of losing what we have, and unwilling to put what we do have on the line for Christ. (Jesus discusses this principle in the Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field, Matthew 13:44-46; He refers to selling all and selling everything to obtain the Treasure.) Do your homework, get the facts, spend a HUGE amount of time in prayer, make the most informed decision you possibly can, and GO FOR IT in the name of Christ Jesus.

Use Leadership Tools
In the article on Accountability I suggested using the “3-W” Chart to keep track of What needs to be done, by Whom, and When is it to be completed. There are more free tools available on the internet than you can ever read much less put to good use (177 million found in 59/100ths of a second!). There are Organizational Charts, Flow Charts of all sorts, Process Management Charts, Distribution Charts, etc. Be careful to not “information map” yourself to death! I will suggest a couple of things your organization can do to keep a results-orientation at the forefront of your minds. They include:

Scorecard. A Scorecard is associated with the principle “What Gets Measured Gets Done.” The beauty of a scorecard is that YOU create the card. Choose what is important to your organization right now, find a way to measure outcomes, and make those metrics available to everyone in your organization. Be care to:
a) Choose what can be measured
b) What you can measure over a sustained period of time
c) Measure what is central to your mission

Whereas I love the objective nature of charts and measurement, you will need to prayerfully consider how one might measure much of what we highly value as Christians (if you even want to at all). When using a scorecard you can only measure activities and visible outcomes. There is no direct way for humans to measure faith, for example; we can only measure some of the visible behaviors that are sometimes associated with faith.

Easy things to measure: 



  • Numbers: attendance, volunteers, attrition rate, mailers, visits made, first-time guests, shut-ins, marriages, Baptism, Communion attendance, etc.
  • Money: offerings, money spent for missions, money raised for special events, etc.
  • Time: staff hours, volunteer hours, community service hours, etc.
  • (Some) Relationships: contacts with new people in the community, response rate of personal invitation, members who volunteer and meet new people as a result: food distribution, community events, etc.

The principle here is that the Church needs to find ways to quantify our efforts so that we focus our attention and resources on activities that ultimately result in more people knowing Christ and become His Disciple.

Financials. The other document (actually, set of documents) I suggest leaders become familiar with and use to their fullest potential are what are called financials. Whereas the financial statements are typically well understood by small and large businesses, in ministry, there seems to be an attitude among many that this is somehow beneath the “spiritual” person. This, of course, if HOGWASH!

Your financials are your ministry plan in monetary language. Leaders (Pastors, DCEs, Principals, Worship Leaders, Church Administrators): the financial statements summarize what you agreed to when you presented your ministry plan for the year. The finance people changed your ministry plan into dollars and cents so that everyone in the congregation and the world will know what you plan to do and how much this will cost.

It is my opinion that Church Leaders need to also pay close attention to Stewardship Data (although Stewardship involves more than money, for the moment, I’m talking about the INCOME sources, typically referred to as “giving units.”) When these “giving units” (people for whom Christ died — not just “units” of course!); when people are having trouble in their lives, that trouble often results in changes in contributions. It’s not about their money. Understanding the Stewardship reports can give you insight into who might need your prayers and counsel and help. Changes in giving patterns can also be an indicator that something is systemically wrong in the organization (eg: Discipleship, matters of faith, relationship issues, etc.). The wise leader will covet all available information, including information dealing the money.

Too many ministers avoid understanding financial statements and great harm to The Church is the result.


As previously stated, these six articles were based on Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. For deeper insight into the mind of one of the great organizational leaders today, buy his book! The steps he writes about and upon which I wrote these articles are:

Step one, build deep trust.

Step two, create an atmosphere of constructive conflict.

Step three, cultivate high-commitment buy-in by everyone on your team.

Step four, Create a Culture of Accountability.

Step five, work toward establishing Results Orientation for the Sake of the Gospel.

As with all these building blocks of effective organizational leadership, some of this is “science,” and some is “art.” Since God is the ONE who Called you to leadership, we have everything we need to lead people in a way that pleases God and edifies His people; the only other thing we need is practice — to steal another marketing phrase, “just do it.” Much of what we learn is ONLY ultimately “learned” by doing. . . and sometimes failing, but by God’s grace, always making progress.

If you would like to discuss this or any other of my articles, please contact me. If you are looking for a speaker for an upcoming event, would like to book a coaching session, or would like help with congregational transformation, please contact me via the website or by email.

Until Next Week. . .


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:

Christian Leadership Matters; Building Leadership Trust (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Consulting, Professional Church Worker Experiences, Purpose, Team, and Values

Do your ministry leaders TRUST you? How do you know if they do (or don’t)?

My first ministry experience as an Assistant Pastor included exceedingly awkward Board meetings where the Senior Pastor did his level best to be invisible. Once the Board meeting officially started, these otherwise Godly, loving, and beautifully friendly members of the congregation became an unloving, judgemental and disgruntled horde of dysfunction. The change was so immediate and complete that at first I thought they were all kidding around. I quickly found out I was wrong; it was genuine and severe ministry dysfunction.

The problems discussed by each Board member were assumed to be “someone else’s” stubbornness or inadequacies. No one offered to help solve issues outside their own narrow responsibility. They were very serious about minor issues but completely ignored the most important responsibilities (and opportunities) offered the Church by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The only thing they all could agree on was that ultimately, it was the fault of the Senior Pastor. I felt sorry for him; he kept his head down throughout the meetings and seemed completely absorbed in whatever he was writing. (I always assumed it was his resignation! Amazingly, it never was and he endured these meetings for years.)

This unfortunate Senior Pastor was the victim of high-level distrust by almost everyone in leadership. A ministry team without trust is NOT a team, it’s a nightmare! I pray that no one reading this would ever endure such high-level dysfunction!

What is trust? What does it look like when an organization trusts its leader?

When I trust my surgeon, I allow her to use her scalpel to open me up. When I trust my accountant, I allow him to access to what I buy, spend, invest and waste. When I trust my spouse, I keep no secrets. Trust is the ability to rely on someone, to have confidence in their character, their strengths, abilities, and intentions. Trust requires vulnerability; allowing people to see the “real you.” Unless you create an atmosphere of trust as you lead your school, church or business, effective leadership is not possible.

Healthy leadership teams have common characteristics: a trustworthy leader, trust in one another, they look forward to working together, focus on important common goals (not politics). Healthy team members listen and encourage one another (not compete for dominance), individual members allow themselves to be vulnerable (they don’t blame others or circumstances). When a leadership team is healthy, when high-level trust is established, members are willing to risk, to try new things and be fully engaged in their ministry objectives. The freedom established in genuine trust creates the environment for effective God-pleasing ministry.

What are some steps toward building leadership trust? Here are three ideas [see part two of Building Leadership Trust for the remaining seven]:

  1.  Lead by example. A leader reaps what he sows. If you are seeking to build trust among those you lead, the leader must learn to model the behavior he/she is trying to cultivate. Trusting those you lead requires vulnerability. People will, ultimately, model what you do no matter what you might say. I don’t know if there’s science behind this thought or not, but it does seem to be true: a congregation, over time, takes on the personality of her Pastor. [I find that both humbling and frightening! — We better be sure our congregations know that Jesus is THE Pastor and then lead accordingly!]
  1.  Trust others. Learning to trust is difficult for many people. As leader, it’s your job to, well, lead. Jesus trusted His disciples and from that he got a Judas (the betrayer) and a John (who dearly loved Jesus) as well as a Peter (on who’s confession Jesus built His Church) and billions of people who have dedicated their lives to Him. Jesus invested Himself in His leadership team (and everyone else) and yes, He got burned (well, crucified), but He was also able to honestly say “It Is Finished!” (everything He came to do, He completed). Trusting others can be difficult, but that’s the nature of Christian Leadership.
  1.  Consistently Communicate. Consistent communication is built on knowing what you are trying to accomplish. “Tell me about your ministry.” Excellent leaders don’t “wing it” when answering that question. “Well, we’re like, a kinda church that, well, you know, loves God and we do great stuff in worship. . . .” Yuk! Not only must the leader know how to communicate well, the leader needs to communicate in such a way that EVERY man, woman, and child can (and will) share an intelligent answer to the question “Tell me about your ministry.” I know some don’t like the “slogan-sound-byte” approach, but the truth is this: people will more often support being made a “partner” rather than being part of an audience. Partners know the organization’s objectives and can share them with anyone they meet at a moment’s notice. Leaders lead in this area by communicating ministry objectives clearly and consistently.

The next issue will complete my top ten steps toward building leadership trust (I got too wordy to get all ten in one blog. . . sorry.) But the next seven will include: relationships outside the boardroom, leadership metrics, leadership consistency, coaching, and a couple of other important leadership principles.

Continue on to Part 2, Building Leadership Trust 

I would LOVE to hear from you! What leadership lessons have you learned? Share with me (and give me permission to share with others) your leadership successes, failures, joys and sorrows. . .

Until next time. . .


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:

No Matter WHAT, Know your Why!

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

Have you ever asked WHY?

We spend a LOT of time asking What and Where and How. Those questions deal with workload, deadlines, specific answers to functional tasks. Yes, they must be asked and answered or little would get done, but there’s an important question we often forget, Why.

The question Why is an inspirational question. It forces us to think about the motivation of our actions, about what drives us, what makes us want to get up in the morning and meet the challenges of the day.

I scheduled a meeting with an author of 32 Christian books a few months ago. My question was “how do I write my first book?” His first question was “Why do you want to write a book?” Leith Anderson in his book “Leadership that Works” says there are only six questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. The most important question, he writes, is WHY. “He who knows how will always have a job; he who knows why will always be the boss.” [Page 193, Leadership that Works]

Have you ever asked yourself Why? Why did you enter the ministry? Why are you: a Pastor? Parochial School Teacher? Director of Christian Education? Church Administrator? Deacon/Deaconess? College and Seminary are great at helping us with the What and the How and the Where. But from your prayer and devotion, from an intense commitment to our Lord, from an exhaustive search of The Word do we discover the Why of our Call.

One Pastor with whom I worked (many years ago) said that he would honestly prefer to be the custodian of the school than the Pastor of the congregation. Another Pastor confessed to my father (who was an Elder at the time) that he didn’t have any idea what Pastors should do all day. A young man and his wife came into my office saying that he would like to become a Pastor. I asked the obvious question, Why? His response, “Because I like to read.” He thought Pastors spent most days just reading (that was in the 1980’s, so today, some might think we spend our time on Facebook!).

Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else!” Being a custodian is an honorable and noble vocation. But for your own sake and the sake of your congregation don’t hold the office of Pastor when you have the heart of the custodian. If you don’t know how to spend your time as a Professional Church Worker, you must be exceedingly frustrated! Find a trusted mentor who can disciple you toward a more rewarding sense of ministry or vocational purpose. If you love to read, great, but find a God-given purpose for whatever you do (Professor, Librarian, Researcher), and with the blessing of God, pursue that vocation with all your might.

“Why” is where our heart is. Perhaps you have seen the Golden Circle popularized by Simon Sinek. At the center of everything valuable in our life is “Why.”  (Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the Golden Circle.)

Christian Leadership Matters; it matters SO MUCH that we MUST know our Why. If you know Why, you can endure any What. Are you stressed in your ministry? Too many irons in the fire? Being pulled in too many directions at once? Are you having difficulty dealing with frustration. . . lack of immediate results. . . dealing with difficult people. . . are your most valued relationships suffering?

If so, take some time, as much as you need, and renew your sense of the Why of your Call. Take time, pray, search the Scriptures, talk with trusted mentors, confide honestly with your spouse, reconnect with your God-given Why.

Then — and this is quite important — WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DISCOVER. Map out your Why as completely and as detailed as possible. Over time, edit, revise, rewrite, rethink, continue in prayer, ask God for clarity, ask your trusted partners and mentors for honest feedback. Make your written Why a foundation for the renewal of your Call. Find a certified and professional Coach (your District or denominational leadership will have a list of qualified Coaches) and if you like, contact The Higher Calling Coach for a free consultation.

Then, no matter What, your Why will empower you to complete that for which you were called heavenward in Christ.

Until next week,

Blessings in Christ,



Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at: