Friday, December 13, 2013

Joy in Leadership

It’s Christmas time.  When I think of Christmas I think of joy.  Jesus was born to bring us joy through a restored relationship with God.  On that first Christmas night the angels came proclaiming to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The angels were speaking of joy through Christ.  It’s a reminder that Jesus came to give us joy.  The word "joy" is prevalent in the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

  • Luke 1:14 “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
  • Luke 1:44 “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
  • Luke 2:10 “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
  • Matthew 2:10 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

Jesus came to give you joy.  Do you have joy in your leadership?  You may ask, “What does joy have to do with leadership?”  I believe it has everything to do with it.  If you have no joy, those you lead will have no joy.  And that makes for a joyless environment.  Moreover, I have yet to meet a person who delights in following a joyless, grinch-like leader.

The best leaders I know have a contagious joy about them.  I took some time to think through the traits of the most joyful leaders I have met.

1. They love what they do.  In fact their attitude is that of Thomas Edison who said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun."  When they awake in the morning, they look forward to the day - the people they will see and the tasks they will do.

2. They love their family.  Their family holds a place of higher priority than their work. Their wife is their best friend and they enjoy spending time with their kids and/or grandchildren.  In fact, the most joyous leaders I know not only enjoy time with their family, they make time for their family.

3. They love people.  They love being around people and talking to people.  They believe the best in people.  They have taken to heart the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

4. They have a positive attitude.  They are optimistic about their future and have a hopeful state of mind.  They understand the power of a positive thought life.  They understand what Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

5. They have a passion for personal growth.  They are continual learners.  They read every day desiring to learn something new.  They have mentors.  New experiences excite them.

6. They delight in adding value to people.  Knowing that they had a part in another person’s success brings them great joy.

7. They work within their strength zone.  They know what their strengths and weaknesses are.  They don’t waste their time and energy trying to do things they are not gifted or equipped to do.  They know what activities and tasks produce the most fruit and bring them the greatest return and they stick to those.

8. They have learned to deal with criticism.  Every leader faces criticism.  They have learned to handle criticism in a positive way.  They know how to differentiate between positive and negative criticism.  They learn from the positive and forget the negative.  They have learned to forgive and move on.

9. They have a vision for the future.  They understand that what they do today will determine where they will be tomorrow.  They work with enthusiasm on what is most important to them knowing that at the end of the day they will be one step closer to seeing their dream realized.

10. They like to have fun.  “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing,” wrote Dale Carnegie.  They know how to have fun at work and away from work.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Characteristics of Pastors That Last

Over the years I have read many times that one of the leading marks of a successful organization is that it’s leadership has been in place for many years.  Successful organizations have leaders who last.

Recently I read an article that started me thinking on this issue of pastoral leadership and church growth.  The article stated that the Southern Baptist Convention found a relationship between the length of time pastors had been in their churches and the growth or decline of those churches.  Approximately 3/4 of growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in place for more than four years, while 2/3 of declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in place less than four years.  Their conclusion: While long-term pastorates will not guarantee church growth, short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow.

Amazingly according to a 2009 Barna study the average length of a pastorate is just four years.  It seems that pastors are leaving their churches right at the time they should start seeing positive growth.  Why is it that some pastors can stay at their churches for many years while most pastors seem to move from church to church every four years?  What is the difference between the long-term pastor and the short-term pastor?  Here are some thoughts.

1. Long term pastors have a God-sized vision for the future.
Long term pastors come to their churches with a vision that motivates them.  It provides them with the zeal to stay the course.  A God-sized vision is one which cannot be accomplished in a few short years.  Capturing your town for Christ cannot be done over-night.  Developing leaders to start new churches or  multiple campuses takes years.  Sending missionaries to every continent is a long-term strategy.  Building a dynamic small group ministry that transforms lives can take a whole generation.  These are examples of  God-sized visions which cannot be accomplished in a short four year span.  Long term pastors have visions that are much bigger than they are.

2. Long term pastors protect their integrity.
Long term pastors work hard to protect their integrity.  They set moral and ethical  boundaries for themselves that they refuse to cross.  They not only hold themselves accountable but they allow others to hold them accountable.  Accountability partners have permission to challenge them.

3. Long term pastors have a sense of calling to their church.
Long term pastors sense that they are placed where they are by the sovereignty of God.   God placed them at that particular church for a purpose, therefore it is not seen as a mere rung on the ecclesiastical ladder in their climb to a larger more prestigious church.

4. Long term pastors maintain spiritual vitality
They take care of themselves spiritually.  They read the Scriptures, pray, study, worship, fellowship—and lead out of the overflow of their walk with God.

5. Long term pastors maintain physical health.
The long-lasting leaders eat properly, exercise regularly, and sleep well.

6. Long term pastors maintain mental health.
They are passionate about personal growth. They read every day.  They have an appetite to hear other pastors and leaders preach and speak.  They have a mentor.  They listen to wise counsel.  Their appetite for new knowledge and learning is insatiable.  They do not like failure, but they know that failing at something does not make them a failure.  They have learned how to make the most of their failures.

7. Long term pastors maintain family health.
The church does not come before their family.  In fact they openly share with the church that their family will always have a higher priority in their life than the church.  They understand that if they lose their family, they lose everything.

8. Long term pastors maintain healthy relationships.
They love people.  Long term leaders are likeable.  People respect them because they respect people.  When attacked by others they don’t become bitter but forgive.  To put it in the words of the apostle Paul, long term leaders are patient and kind; they do not envy or boast; they are not arrogant or rude. They do not insist on their own way; they are not irritable or resentful (1 Cor 14:4-5).

9. Long term pastors maintain a healthy sense of humor.
They have learned to laugh.  They do not take themselves too seriously.  They laugh at themselves and they laugh with others.

10. Long term pastors maintain a healthy legacy.
They understand that leadership is highly visual.  They know they are being watched and scrutinized as a Christians leader.  Therefore they work to insure that they are setting a godly example.  They know that how they live today will determine how they will be judged tomorrow.  They have a desire to leave their churches in a position to continue to succeed after they are gone.  They understand they are accountable to God for how they lead where they are in the time they have.