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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: Commitment Trumps Consensus

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Commitment, Professional Church Worker Experiences, and Team

How many times have members of your Board or ministry team said something like: “Didn’t we already decide this issue earlier in the year?” Or, “I don’t think we have enough information to make a decision on that. . . oh, it’s too late? Oh, well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be!” Or, “Is everyone really sure we should have sold that property; let’s discuss it again.”

When those type of questions consistently arise, there are several likely problems: Hopefully it is something simple such as poor note-taking skills. If that’s the issue (to rip-off paraphrase Apple), there’s an App for that: The Minute-Taker’s Workshop.

More likely, however, those type of questions point to something more serious such as: lack of shared vision, lack of vision clarity, or lack of team commitment. Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team states that teams become dysfunctional when they try to constantly formulate consensus rather than commitment. Lencioni warns that when we value consensus more than commitment, we’re setting our ministries (businesses) up for mediocrity or outright failure.

Why Consensus is Insufficient

Leading by consensus is not ultimately possible. People often “agree” for the wrong reasons. Some just want to get home before midnight. Others have a high need to agree with their social group (happens frequently in ministry groups); or people agree with their friend even when he/she might be wrong in order to maintain the friendship. More serious reasons why mere consensus is impossible include: the fear of looking foolish (wrong) in front of peers (silence is safe–sticking your neck out isn’t); not wanting to take the blame for a decision that resulted in failure; general lack of group confidence in decision-making.

When trying to lead by mere consensus, decisions (especially important and difficult ones) almost never happen. Or, when decisions are made, they are decisions filled with compromise and caveats; in fact, trying to lead by consensus can make a “non-decision” desirable when compared to what’s finally “decided.” Additionally, leading by consensus is a type of “group-think” that kills organizational innovation, discourages truth-telling, and prevents valuable dissenting opinions.

What is Leading by Commitment?

Leading by commitment (to use a Stephen Covey phrase) is to lead with the end in mind. Know your organization’s “WHY;” Why do you exist? What is your Mission? What are you trying to accomplish? To lead by commitment the leader must know the WHY and lead strategically according to that WHY.

Once you as a leader know your WHY, invite people to share your passion. If you have an existing Board, “infect” your leaders with your God-given vision that they, too, can share your ministry passion. Then move forward.

Leading by Commitment is to move your organization forward with maximum buy-in in a resolute manner. This means everyone knows and embraces your vision; no one has to guess what you are thinking or where you are going. When a team genuinely commits, they provide the leader with honest emotional support and they support both the leader and one another even when individuals don’t agree with the decision.

Leading by commitment is NOT autocratic or unilateral. Orchestrate good discussion, listen to everyone, think, pray, consider, discuss various options and possible outcomes; LISTEN to the people God has placed on your team, but ultimately, decide on a course of action and create maximum buy-in to your solutions. There are times when some decisions are decided by consensus; but leading ONLY by consensus will lead to unhealthy outcomes.

Principles that help orchestrate Commitment

Creating high-level commitment with those you lead is NOT done in a vacuum. It’s contingent on Lencioni’s first two steps: Build on TRUST [Part 2 of TRUST] — CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF CONSTRUCTIVE CONFLICT. If you were directed to this article and want to build an organization based on commitment, please read the first two articles by clicking the links. Everything starts with Trust and builds from there.

Other principles:

Building on Trust and Creative Conflict, leaders can begin to build high-level commitment among those he/she leads. Toward that end, Leaders must create:

. . . An alignment of Vision. In healthy organizations every leader embraces the same vision and mission. It is my opinion that under most circumstances the leader of the organization sets and directs that vision. Even in organizations with a long history (and even as a leader of a department), the leader sets the stage for team success. For example, each President of the United States is to work under the same constitution according to the same laws and each have, roughly, the same resources with which they can work, yet each administration sets their own national vision and agendas leading to significantly different results.

Therefore, as Principal of your school, you work with the existing constitution and bylaws, you work alongside a Pastor and with a School Board, yet, you set the tone for the School Ministry; it’s your vision for the future (working with the other ministry agencies) that will successfully realize the vision God has given you as leader.

. . . An alignment of Expectations, Roles, Responsibilities. Leaders of healthy organizations set realistic and challenging expectations. If, for example, you consistently allow meetings to start “whenever” everyone happens to arrive, your meetings will never start (or end) on time. After a while, some will question the level of commitment the group has toward the mission of the organization. (I fully recognize that this is often a cultural issue; my culture uses atomic clocks, but others use a sundial. This is only an example, your culture may vary.) None-the-less, people will tend to give a trusted leader what he/she expects from the team. (Note: my sentence says “a trusted” leader; unrealistic expectations will break trust given time.) Expect the best from your team, have lofty (but realistic) goals, encourage your team, give praise for jobs well done, and discourage bad behavior or attitudes.

. . . Overshare a Clear Vision. A friend of mine says: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” That’s not true in every case, of course (I’m thinking beer, here – moderation!). But when it comes to sharing a clear vision, it’s difficult to imagine a situation where oversharing is possible. Complex (and wealthy) organizations spend millions of dollars each year to make sure everyone in the nation knows who they are and why they exist. Is anyone unclear what Amazon does? What about Standard Oil? Or Microsoft? We all know, in fact, we can’t escape knowing. A clear vision must be so well known by everyone in your organization that everyone can (and does) share that vision with your target community. For that to happen, your vision must be memorable and must be constantly re-enforced from the top leaders all the way through your organization and into your community. Even those who do not choose to participate in your organization should (ideally) at least know who you are and what you do.

Regarding the sharing of important information, Lencioni writes about “Cascading Communication” which is simply this:

1) The Leader and Team agree on the message (for example, the important items decided at the Board meeting). They decide on “messaging” that is simple to understand and true; the items that need to be shared.

2)  Within 24 to 48 hours, that message is personally delivered to direct reports (in ministry, that would mean, for example, each Board member takes this message to his/her own committee/team).

3)  Those “reports” would in turn communicate that same message to those in their ministry area. An example here might be: Board member to entire Youth Board to DCE who shares this with his/her parents and youth.

4)  This continues until the “messaging” is shared with everyone in the organization. In the case of ministry, the entire congregation.

The important principle: Information is communicated consistently, quickly, and personally. It strikes me that the more dysfunctional an organization might be, the more important and powerful Cascading Communication will be.

Being Wrong is Better than No Decision. This is a hard concept for many people. But there’s nothing that will kill an organization faster than the inability to make a decision. The world moves too fast for those who cannot decide. Lencioni’s advice: Set Deadlines for decision. He also suggests creating worst-case scenario contingencies in order to help your team make a timely decision. A lot of teams find commitment-decision-making difficult. Fortunately, leaders decide. What makes this particularly difficult? You will sometimes be wrong! Therefore, create an environment that rewards risk-taking (which is what a decision is), and that values forward movement. When wrong? . . . analyze what went wrong, learn something new, agree to decide on a new course, go.

Make Commitment Part of your Culture. For Christian ministries this ought to be an easy concept; we’re all about commitment. But here’s where a culture of commitment battles the majority culture: When an issue is properly discussed and everyone is genuinely heard and all the available data is scrutinized, a decision is made. Too often in today’s North American culture, people will criticize the decision (and/or outcomes of that decision) that “we” made. Healthy leaders and teams spend all the time necessary to get the facts on the table and they hammer out the best possible solution they can. Then, they decide and that decision is now THE DECISION OF THE GROUP. Healthy organizations work together and the decisions that are made are the decision of the entire group, even when an individual preferred the alternate choice. Your leadership team MUST speak with ONE voice; they must consistently demonstrate Commitment to God, the ministry group of which they are a member, and to the overall ministry in which they serve. If a person cannot or will not make these type of commitments, they should not serve in leadership. It’s that important.

By building deep trust among the people we are called to serve, by trusting God and His people and urging constructive conflict, we will set the stage for solid and mature commitment to Christ and His Church.

If you would like to discuss this or any other topic from these articles, or would like to book a workshop or coaching appointment, please contact me. I look forward to working with you and the ministry to which you have been called!


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:

Creating an Atmosphere of Constructive Conflict

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Constructive Conflict, Professional Church Worker Experiences, Team, Team Building, Trust, and Values

Concerned Member: “People are upset with some of the decisions you as a Board have made these past 6 months! A number of people have confided with me that if things don’t change, they’re going to leave the church!”

Faithful Board Member: “Who are those people? What, specifically, is their concern?”

Concerned Member: “Well, I can’t tell you because it was told to me in confidence, but they all want things to change!”

Most people are uncomfortable with conflict. I, too, am not a fan of high-level conflict and prefer to avoid it where possible. But conflict is all around us. Sometimes there’s conflict even when no one’s talking; and that can be the worst kind! In a culture that seems to relish “all-or-nothing” extremism; a culture that “knows” the position “I” represent is the right one (and “yours” is not just wrong, but EVIL), do we really want to invite conflict into our ministry teams and Boards?

And I say, “Yes, we DO want the right kind of conflict. It’s healthy, important, and will serve Christ and His Church in healthy ways.” HOWEVER, we need an atmosphere of Constructive Conflict.

What does this mean?

I believe, teach and confess that a leader of a ministry team or Board (or a business) must create an atmosphere of constructive conflict. The key word here is “constructive.” Conflict, by definition, is neither bad nor good. The “goodness” or “badness” of conflict depends on intent and outcome. The wise leader creates an atmosphere that encourages healthy conflict so that the mission of Christ can be more fully realized.

How would you characterize your ministry meetings? Are they: boring or exciting? . . . motivating or demotivating? . . . productive or a waste of time? . . . four hours long and nothing decided or 45 minutes and God says: “Well done thou good and faithful servants!”?

Four reasons Constructive Conflict is important:

  1. Constructive Conflict stimulates creativity by giving everyone a safe platform from which to speak. (People will be excited to serve.)
  2. Constructive Conflict creates Ministry momentum and group synergy. When done well, constructive conflict brings out the best in a group and creates intense camaraderie within the team.  (The ministry team accomplishes their goals.)
  3. Constructive Conflict allows important and stressful issues to be openly resolved. (Problems don’t fester.)
  4. Constructive Conflict establishes a more emotionally healthy and spiritually mature ministry. (Problems are dealt with immediately, honestly, and in Christ-honoring ways.)

Here is a quote from the Master Leadership Teacher, Patrick Lencioni about constructive conflict:

The Trouble With Teamwork (Lencioni) – “CEOs who go to great lengths to avoid conflict often do so believing that they are strengthening their teams by avoiding destructive disagreement. This is ironic, because what they are really doing is stifling productive conflict and pushing important issues that need to be resolved under the carpet where they will fester. Eventually, those unresolved issues transform into uglier and more personal discord when executives grow frustrated at what they perceive to be repeated problems. What CEOs and their teams must do is learn to identify artificial harmony when they see it, and incite productive conflict in its place.This is a messy process, one that takes time to master. But there is no avoiding it, because to do so makes it next to impossible for a team to make real commitment.”

Five Principles on creating an atmosphere of constructive conflict:

Principle 1: Create an atmosphere of TRUST!

There is nothing more important for a ministry team than trust. (This was a topic of a Two-Part Blog called Building Leadership Trust.) Unless the leader establishes genuine and deep organizational trust, constructive conflict cannot happen. You might have conflict without establishing trust, but not constructive conflict.

Principle 2: Understanding is more important than agreement.

Unhealthy conflict often begins because the real issue is not fully understood. The first objective in discussing issues is to understand the other side of the issue. Some people have difficulty outlining their ideas succinctly. Others have (what one professor of mine called) fuzzy thinking. Still others might have high emotional content but are low on factual data. To fully understand people we need to get to know them; we understand what they “mean” rather than what they “say.”

I had a Board member that would periodically summarize the issues being discussed. He did this for three reasons: First, to make sure he understood the real issue being discussed. Second, to help insure that everyone else understood the real issue the same way. Third, to help move the discussion toward healthy conclusion. I adopted that tactic when leading and have found it very helpful.

Principle 3: Be the “adult” in the room.

Have you ever had a conflict become an explosion? . . . or a team member have an emotional break-down? . . . have you experienced uncontrollable emotion (anger-to-rage, tearful frustration, expressed your seething resentment) as the leader? We are emotional creatures and for some, exercising emotional control is difficult.

Several thoughts:

1) It’s not helpful to view this as a moral problem. It could be and must be addressed if it is. But often there’s something else going on. I’m an huge advocate of Christian Counseling; a good counselor can help you understand what’s going on that makes emotional control difficult. It can REALLY HELP! Just as you are a professional in your occupation, so is a good therapist (call your District or denominational office for a referral).

2) We all “blow-it” sometimes. When you do, “own it,” apologize, take steps to rectify where possible, and move on. Do NOT allow mistakes to define your future; this is where confession/absolution is immediately practical. Model the behavior you as a Christian leader seek to cultivate in others.

3) Practice emotional distance regarding strongly felt issues. Keep your passion, but as much as possible separate how you feel from what is right and good. This takes practice. Sometimes how we feel is not the same thing as what is right. Be mindful of your feelings and lead according to rational plans and objectives (rather than leading with feelings). I am NOT saying feelings are bad (they are, in fact, a phenomenal blessing of God!). Feelings are like potential energy; our rational mind directs that energy toward healthy objectives. Without that mindful directive, our emotional energy can get out of control. (Believe me, I know this from experience!)

4) Work with a Coach. A Coach is NOT a psychologist or therapist, but with your Coach you can establish goals, discover new approaches for healthy leadership responses, and find an encouraging accountability partner for a time. I have several tools we can use to help you establish healthy leadership skills, and we can work together toward accomplishing your objectives.

Principle 4: Keep the “main thing” the main thing.

Your objective as leader is to create an atmosphere of constructive conflict. You WANT people to voice disagreement, share contrary ideas, ask for details and pick apart plans. BUT, you want the conflict to be CONSTRUCTIVE to your objectives. You want what is BEST for your Church or School or Business. Therefore you want every possible solution to be laid out on the table so you, as a group, can make informed and wise decisions about how to proceed. The “main thing” is NOT the conflict but the solution. The “main thing” is NOT “your way” or “my way,” but discerning what solution will allow us to achieve the goal for which we were called heavenward in Christ. As the leader (or in a vacuum of leadership, I urge you to take the lead in this), keep the discussion (and the conflict) constructive, always moving toward accomplishing the mission of your organization. Too many people have an emotional need to win even if it means the organization loses. Christian leaders create an atmosphere that to win means to move the cause of Christ forward. Keep your eyes on the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)!

Principle 5: Discern the real issue.

Good leaders create an atmosphere of constructive conflict. So, if you’re going to generate conflict of any kind, make sure the conflict is focused on the right thing. It’s your job as the leader to guide the team through constructive conflict. This is especially true in an organization that is new to constructive conflict or that show signs of organizational dysfunction. Start, of course, by building trust (see Principle 1 and Building Leadership Trust).

Principle 5 is about the importance of discerning the REAL issue(s). I suggest taking things slowly, especially at first. Before you encourage creative and constructive conflict, make sure you have the right issue on the table. WRITE IT DOWN. Make the topic visible to everyone (via powerpoint or white board). Modify what’s written as the discussion evolves. Always make sure people are on topic, everyone is heard, their opinions valued, and the conversation is directed toward resolution.

If “off-topic” issues are raised, establish the agreement with your team that a record is kept and those “off-topic” items will be a topic on a future agenda. It is of paramount importance that teams accomplish everything possible on the previously written/approved agenda. To do otherwise will be a recipe for chaos.

What is the “real issue”? In medicine, a patient’s symptoms could be a lot of things; there might be an 80% chance it’s the flu, but there’s a 5% chance the symptoms point to Malaria. So, the good doctor starts asking questions and running tests.

The issues being brought up at a meeting might be the “real” issue, but it’s also possible that the presenting issue might be a symptom. The wise leader asks questions and runs tests to discern the real issue. And this sometimes takes time, but it will be time very well spent!

As you can read above, I highly respect Patrick Lencioni and his leadership approaches. This blog article is the third of what will be 6 or so articles applying Patrick Lencioni’s principles from his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. If you haven’t read my first two blogs, please do so as they will be the foundation of all the other articles in this series. TRUST is the most fundamental principle for building strong teams. Trust is in our wheelhouse as members of The Church.

Everything is built on Trust (Week 1 and 2). This week, Constructive Conflict. Next week I’ll write on the importance of Commitment over Consensus . Next, the topic of Accountability (which is more important than Ambiguity). And finally (in this series of articles) creating a Results Oriented organization.  

If you have suggestions, stories, or would like to engage in constructive conflict, please do so!

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 2 of 2)

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, Team, Team Building, and Trust


Part 1 of this blog HERE.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. It is difficult to imagine that anything good or lasting could happen in your church, school or organization without an environment of trust. Trust is the foundation of great ministry teams, congregations, families, and societies. “Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing behaviors and interactions within the group (Patrick Lencioni from his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team). [This book is a “must have” in any leader’s library!]

Last week I listed the first three steps toward building leadership trust. They are: 1. Lead By Example, 2. Trust Others, 3. Consistently Communicate. You can access part 1 of this blog here.

Now, (as Paul Harvey use to say) the rest of the story. . .

  1. Build substantive relationships outside the Boardroom. Christian leaders don’t lead in a vacuum. People want and need to know the “real you;” they want to know your motivation for life and leadership. People are anxious to see how you talk with your spouse and kids or how you act when things go terribly wrong. Leadership is tough because a good leader is always acting in the role of a leader, even on the golf course or at the restaurant. Want to be considered a great leader, a leader that engenders high-level trust? Dine with people as friends and colleagues, have coffee “just to chat,” go to a ball game and don’t always talk business. Be genuine. Allow people to know the “real you.” Get to know your people as people; know their kids, their likes and dislikes, what motivates them.
  1. Provide Honest Feedback. For many people in ministry, this is very tough. But learning to provide honest feedback — even negative feedback — is critical to establishing organizational trust. When you have an underperforming Board member (or Elder, Youth Volunteer, Parent helper, etc.), it is the leader’s great privilege and responsibility to help the organization succeed by providing honest feedback. If someone or some group is NOT performing adequately, others on the ministry team will learn and imitate the “acceptable” behavior. If the leader accepts poor behavior (or bad attitudes or substandard work) you will inadvertently set a new LOW standard for everyone else and your ministry will suffer. Honest feedback doesn’t have to be harsh or particularly confrontational, but it does need to occur. Check out The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard for help in providing honest and effective feedback. Much more fun and perhaps even more important is to celebrate good behaviors, excellent performance, and stellar attitudes. Your ministry team will, over time, avoid what the leader reprimands and imitate what the leader celebrates.
  1.   Orchestrate Success.  It is not possible in our sinful world to always and only experience “success.” (We do have the ultimate success in Jesus!) To orchestrate success in this world means: lead intentionally, using well-thought-out plans, so that milestones can be celebrated. There is nothing more de-motivating for a ministry team than a leader who ignores their sacrificial efforts merely because we’re not “there” yet. A good leader orchestrates success; Orchestrating success creates energetic teams who trust their leader who led them to those successes. For example: Let’s say you want a hugely successful VBS this year. OK, create realistic goals but make sure you build in some “successes” such as: Fully Staffed (doesn’t happen every year); Best worship in VBS EVER; three Baptisms resulted; 15 kids from the community we’ve never before met; . . .  Build into your VBS planning the high likelihood of successes you can celebrate as a ministry team AND that you can celebrate with the whole congregation or school or ministry. This builds leadership credibility and engenders trust in you as a leader.
  1.  True Love DOES Say Sorry. The saying (from 1970 movie Love Story) “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” never made sense to me. I love God and I’m always saying “I’m sorry!” I suppose that if we were perfect leaders among perfect people in a perfect world, that saying would be true. But we’re NOT and it ISN’T. A leader, when wrong, MUST be able to apologize. Apologizing is NOT a sign of weakness, but it IS a sign of strength. Nothing breaks trust faster than wronging a person (or a group) and NOT humbly owning up to your error. If you expect other people on your ministry team to apologize when appropriate, you must do likewise. It is not possible to establish a community of trust if the leader cannot be honest with him/herself and with the community.
  1.  Coach. Number eight is near and dear to my heart! Coaching is about: focused conversations that support, encourage, and empower those you lead toward high-performance achievement. When a leader invests him/herself into those they lead with the goal of helping that person reach their highest potential in Christ, high-level trust is created. Help each person on your leadership team become the best they can be; help them become THE expert in their area of ministry or service. Empower those you lead that they might more fully embrace their own calling and become all that God has blessed them to be. That will make you a leadership superstar! For (a LOT) more information about Coaching and/or if you would like to try out Coaching for yourself or your team, visit the website:
  1.  Create Synergy. Ministry should never be siloed. An extreme example of ministry siloing too often occurs when a congregation has bilingual services and neither “congregation” knows anything about “them.” This can even happen when the first service is “traditional” and the second is “contemporary.” One can legitimately ask whether there is ONE congregation or two (sometimes more). Is God’s Word not God’s Word in every part of His Church? Is the Church ONE or are there many “bodies” in the Church (please read 1 Corinthians 12). The leader creates higher level trust when he/she creates ministry synergy; the Adult Bible Class ministers to the primary students. . . who sing in the Traditional Service . . where the contemporary band plays the offertory and leads the closing hymn. . . then leads the contemporary worship in the traditional hymn during second service. . . where the Spanish-speaking service gives testimony via a translator about great things happening at the bilingual Saturday morning men’s fellowship, etc. Synergy is “together energy,” or “shared joy.” A leader will create higher-level trust when they can demonstrate leadership in the Grand Divine Plan rather than “just” a small subset of that plan. God’s plans are always bigger than ours; our opportunity is to share the BIG picture of the great things God is doing!  Use real-life examples of what God is doing in the lives and families of the Sunday School. . . Retell a story told by one of the mid-week attendees. . . create an atmosphere of community wherever possible.
  1. Be Consistent. Few things can destroy trust faster than being inconsistent. Even if you are the GREAT AND MIGHTY LAST HOPE for your organization, inconsistency will be your undoing. We’re not talking about “perfection” or times when mistakes are made. This is about emotional maturity. If you run GREAT and productive meetings but lose your temper when you aren’t getting your way, you will break every bond of trust very quickly. If you are excellent in the public execution of your leadership but have moral failure, you WILL ultimately fail in your leadership role. If you are sometimes kind and forgiving BUT other times harsh and critical, your unpredictability will prevent you from establishing the kind of trust you need for Christian ministry. I knew a leader of a rather large Christian ministry that would, for no apparent reason, blow-up at one of the employees for minor infractions (and do so publicly). But that same person would allow others to get away with consistently unprofessional behavior. He ultimately lost his leadership. To be consistent means to act like the adult in the room even if others are not. Consistency means being the non-anxious leadership presence, being the “reliable one” who inspires confidence in those you lead as they live out their calling.

What has God taught you about building and maintaining organizational trust? Please share! What was your favorite of the ten I shared? What would you like to add? I would LOVE to hear or read your stories of successes as well as those times where you learned a powerful lesson (and would love it even more if you give me permission to share your story with others).

And, if you would like help in establishing trust with your ministry team, contact me, The Higher Calling Coach.

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:

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:

Seven Ways to Create a Dynamite Team

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Team, and Team Building

Wouldn’t it be great to lead a truly dynamite team? Imagine meeting your ministry team on Monday morning and seeing EVERYONE excited about getting down to work, each doing their best and excited about their next ministry success. Imagine your whole team filled with passion and a deep desire to work according to their own strengths and fully utilizing the strengths of the other team members. . . Imagine a ministry where everyone is passionate about making your ministry vision a concrete reality. . . Imagine!

A great imagination is a wonderful thing. Reality, however, is often little more frustrating. As great as imagination is, imagination alone doesn’t create  excellent teams. Imagination must be linked with concrete practical plans in order to have the power to change anything. Formation of a world-class team is built from the ground up, not handed down from heaven above. How can we build a dynamite team? Here are Seven Ways to Create a Dynamite Team:

  1. Know your Goal

Leaders have concrete vision. Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Wise words. Most people in ministry (or in business, for that matter) are motivated to do something, but they aren’t sure what. Unless you know your ministry direction, how is it possible to convince others to follow you? And, even if you can convince others to follow, a smart person will soon leave when they are recruited by a leader with a vision. I’m convinced a lack of vision is one of the major reasons congregations and other ministries struggle; people are frustrated by a lack of vision yet too loyal to their congregation or denomination to leave, so they stay around and complain about their frustrations. . . and little if any progress is made.

  1. Overshare your Vision

It’s difficult to overshare a vision, but when in doubt, share again. When you recruit people to your ministry team, make sure they KNOW and BUY INTO your vision. Your vision must be your ministry passion; EVERYONE ON THE TEAM must completely understand your vision and want what you want.

  1. Recruit Mission Partners, not Friends

Ministry leaders have a fine line to walk; you want to be “friends” (or more Biblically, Brothers/Sisters in Christ), but you are called to the mission of Christ. Effective ministries, just like effective businesses (and NGO’s, government agencies, and every other type of organization), exist to accomplish a mission. Therefore, make sure your team knows that the MISSION is more important than the participation of any individual (including the existing leader). The mission of Christ will get done with or without “me”; my job as a Christian leader is to faithfully focus on my calling in Christ and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

  1. Show the Ropes

Apparently an old nautical term, “show them the ropes” means to demonstrate the proper way to set the sails so that the ship will safely and effectively navigate the ocean and reach their chosen destination. You may recruit very successful people to your ministry team (and you should!), but that doesn’t mean they fully understand how Christian “ministry” works. You’ve heard the expression: “When all you have is a hammer, all the world’s a nail.” People will use the tools they know and understand. Your job as leader is to “show them the [Christian ministry] ropes.” Patiently and strategically equip your team members to become expert ministry team members. That’s your role as a Christian leader, to equip, teach, train, explain, share, encourage, and help each team member reach their fullest potential in Christ.

  1. Create Experts

As you develop your ministry team, choose wisely. Where possible, recruit people according to the needs of the ministry and according to your vision of the future of that ministry. As you “show the ropes” develop the attitude that you are equipping your team to be experts in their field. Are you the smartest person in the room? If you are, then you will do whatever you can to elevate your team members so that each team member becomes the smartest person in the room in regards to their ministry area. Small minded leaders like warm bodies to validate their leadership. Good leaders seek to attract team members smarter than themselves; AND they work hard to help their team members become even smarter and better equipped and even more effective than they alone could ever be. Tom Peters: “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”

  1. Encourage Mistakes

OK, this might seem weird, but I believe it to be good advice. This doesn’t mean that you encourage people to try to do things wrong. . . quite the opposite. Encourage your team members to try new things, to push the envelope, to discover the boundaries of what works and what doesn’t. Every good and new ministry approach was once unconventional (and perhaps even considered unorthodox). Thinking outside the box is healthy for the individual, the team and the Church. Give your team permission to fail, to make mistakes, to fumble the ball (or any other figure of speech you can think of). You will create an atmosphere of joy and creativity; and by doing so, you will increase ministry effectiveness. (By the way: Happy people get more done, attract other happy people, and their  joy is efficacious – happy people will attract like-minded people into your ministry, people who want to be a part of the fun! — just say’n).

  1. Know your Team as Individuals

To build a dynamite team, you gotta know A LOT about the players. How many hours will a football coach spend recruiting and getting to know a player’s skill set, how fast they run, how far and accurately they can throw a ball, how well they catch, etc.? You are the coach of your team and you need to know your players very well. What are their particular set of skills, what expertise do they already have, what limitations might they have, and what is their ministry passion? A great leader knows their team members and gives them opportunity to serve in their areas of strength and helps the “players” shore up areas of relative weakness.

Your next team meeting might not be perfect, but over time, it can become better, and filled with joyful effectiveness for the cause of Christ. If you would like to talk about it, contact me!


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes Christian Leadership Matters blog each week, 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: Email Coach Phil at: if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.