Practical Stuff for Church Leaders

Friday Finds - Time Management, Benefits of Inflexibility, & Better Preaching

This week, I had the honor of meeting with the leaders of Scottsdale Bible Church in Phoenix to present them with candidates for their next Student Pastor. I'm always incredibly honored to play a part in such a holy crossroads in a church's life. The week prior, I met with LifePoint Church near Nashville--which meant I was able to stop by and spend time with my oldest daughter and her husband (and, of course, their new puppy). And last week, I was able to spend a weekend away celebrating my wife's birthday. I'm blessed to have time to spend with family despite a busy schedule.

We've pulled some articles to encourage you this week:

Time Management For The Time-Challenged by Kristi Hedges via Forbes

I always encourage my team to manage their time wisely and tell me when they are overloaded. But as much as I encourage time-management, it's up to each individual to steward their time. This insight from Kristi Hedges is extremely practical and applicable for every personality, no matter how unorganized you think you are. This is especially helpful for pastors, who are notorious for saying "yes" to too many things.

Why Teams Don't Play Up To Their Potential by Paul Alexander via TonyMorganLive.com

Do you ever feel like your staff is full of talented people yet it's not quite performing to its full potential? Every team has been there (or will be there). Paul Alexander wisely points out the various reasons why your team isn't quite dialed in yet. Keep this article in mind when you're hiring a new team member as well. Hiring a "rockstar" who isn't a team player will upset the cohesion of your team.

The Surprising Benefit Of Being Inflexible by Michael Hyatt via MichaelHyatt.com

One of the core values we have at Vanderbloemen is "Ever-Increasing Agility," and we pride ourselves on being a flexible, agile team. But don't take this article as face-value. What Hyatt is talking about is that kind of flexibility where we allow ourselves to bend on our goals or our boundaries. As he wisely points out, some of our priorities need to be "no exceptions." Read on...

How Lead Pastors Can Improve Their Teaching Team by David Whiting via Vanderbloemen.com

My colleague and friend David has such great advice for Senior Pastors (shameless plug: he's also hosting a Lead Pastor Coaching Network this fall). One of the best things that Pastors can do is build up a strong teaching team around them, so they are not having to preach more than 40 or so weekends a year. Follow these steps from David to make sure you never have to worry about your other teachers being unprepared or inexperienced.

What are you reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday Finds - Self-Awareness, Truth Telling, & Limiting Beliefs

Last week, a group of my colleagues at Vanderbloemen took the Enneagram personality assessment. Our team tends to enjoy discussing personality theory and studying how we communicate with one another and what makes us "tick" (and honestly, it's one of the reasons we're such a cohesive team). But what really struck me is the focus on self-awareness and self-leadership that such assessments encourage. And today's Friday Finds reflect that.

I'm hoping these articles can help and encourage you this week:

The Power Of Truth Telling At Work by Skip Prichard via SkipPrichard.com

One of the personality areas that my friends kept comparing and chuckling about was one another's tendency toward embracing or avoiding confrontation. But even for those who don't shy away from confrontation, speaking the total truth in your workplace is tough. We fear the consequences of being totally honest. Especially on a church staff, we want to be liked. Read this interview between Skip Prichard and Mindy Mackenzie, author of The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team.

Leadership Is About Emotion by Meghan M. Biro via Forbes

What are the qualities of a truly outstanding leader, one that inspires you at a gut-level? I'll give you a hint: I already discussed two of them - self-awareness & honesty. Read this great article by Meghan Biro to discover the other traits that great leaders need to inspire their team.

5 Hurdles Every Executive Pastor Has To Get Over by Kevin Lloyd via LeadBravely.org

My friend Kevin Lloyd also touches on truth-telling in this insightful post. It's all too easy for XPs to "soft pedal" the truth to their Senior Pastors. But as I wrote here, speaking truth to power is a necessary skill to cultivate in leadership. Kevin also touches on our tendency to be too high-control - another personality trait that had my teammates chuckling as they read their Enneagram results to one another.

What Story Are You Telling Yourself? by Michael Hyatt via MichaelHyatt.com

This article is subtitled, "Overcome Limiting Beliefs with These 5 Steps," and it's pure gold. One of my colleagues read that her Enneagram type has an especially harsh & constant voice of criticism inside her head, and her response was, "Wait - everyone else doesn't have that same voice all the time??" The reality is that many of us struggle with self-limiting beliefs, a voice in our heads that tells us what we're not good at. But what if you got good at tuning it out or re-writing the narrative? Don't miss this Michael Hyatt awesomeness.

What are you reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.

Hey, Executive Pastor: 5 Things Your Senior Pastor Needs from You

Last week, I wrote about the 5 things that every Executive Pastor needs from his or her Senior Pastor. As I mentioned, this is a very delicate relationship. If a local church is going to thrive, this is the most important relationship on the staff, and it must be strong and healthy.

I had the privilege to work for two decades for an amazing leader from whom I learned so much. He trusted me with high-level leadership way before I was ready and supported me nearly every step of the way. I had the opportunity to craft my role and grow into it as the church grew around us. In our 20 years together, we saw the church double, then double again, and then double two more times. We went from 6 staff members to 129 on our team. When we started working together, we owned no buildings or property, but that quickly grew to two sites, more than 60 acres, and 150,000 SF in buildings. It was all new for both of us. At every step of the way, neither of us had ever led at that level before. What a tremendous learning experience!

For the past 9 years, I’ve had the privilege to coach more than 150 leaders who sit in the #2 chair and fill the role of Executive Pastor. Every semester, I join with 16 leaders and get to learn from them as we study together what it means to be an Executive Pastor.

(Click here to read more about the Executive Pastor Coaching Network that I'll be leading this spring and the Lead Pastor Coaching Network led by my colleague, David Whiting.)

It is from my 20 years in the #2 chair, and my many years of coaching leaders, that I offer this list of 5 things every Senior Pastor needs from his or her Executive Pastor:

1.       Strategic Judgment. If you don’t have this, your Senior Pastor feels compelled to step back in and begin to run things again. That typically isn’t best for them or for the church. If you don’t naturally think strategically or organizationally, then get some training and some people around you who naturally think that way. Many Senior Pastors have dreams of where the church should go, but need a strategic mind to help figure out how to get there.

2.       Competence. Someone must have their finger on the pulse of how the church is doing with finances, facilities, legal issues, and HR issues—and that is often the Executive Pastor. You must know enough to be able to speak with great clarity and confidence about the health of the church and any threats that exist. Your Senior Pastor needs you to be up-to-speed on these issues.

3.       Someone to process. There are times when the Lead Pastor need to verbally process what is going on in their head. This is tricky, because you will be tempted to talk about how impossible it is because of money or staff limitations. But you should give them space to dream. Where else can they do this safely if not with you?

4.       Buffer. This is a delicate one, because your Senior Pastor may not know he or she needs it — but they need you to be a buffer. Their energy about the typo in the bulletin or fingerprints on the glass windows will not be helpful if shared in the moment. You need to be able to absorb this energy and then tackle the systems or offer appropriate correction to the people who can fix it long-term. Your Senior Pastor needs to focus on message preparation and overall vision, and not be burdened with the daily decisions of running the church. In the best situations, the Lead Pastor leads the church, and the Executive Pastor runs the church.

5.       Speak truth to power. Most Senior Pastors have very few people who tell them the truth. You may have heard it said, “The last time you heard the truth about what was happening in the organization was the first day you became CEO.” That is true for Lead Pastors as well. But they need someone next to them who will graciously and with wise timing say what is true. Do this sparingly — it is an amazing gift that very few others are in the position to offer.

I am sure this list is not exhaustive. I’d love to hear from your experience about what else every Senior Pastor needs from his or her executive leader.

Credit: Doug Slaybaugh was an Executive Pastor at Saddleback Church for many years. Now he spends his time with the Paterson Center helping leaders focus on what is important in their churches and in their personal lives. We recently spent some time together talking about the critical nature of the relationship between the senior pastor and executive pastor. It is from that conversation that I wrote this article.

Hey, Senior Pastor: 5 Things Your Executive Pastor Needs from You

I worked in the same church for 20 years, the bulk of that as the Executive Pastor. Those 20 years gave me a very diverse experience.

I served as an Executive Pastor in a small church – when we had less than 300 people. I also served as an Executive Pastor in a large church—when we were averaging more than 6,000 regular weekend attenders.

Through most my tenure, I served as an Executive Pastor in a growing church—when we averaged more than 23% growth per year for 15 years. But I also served as an Executive Pastor in a declining church—when we were losing more than 5% a year.

I served as an Executive Pastor when we were adding ministries and campuses and couldn’t keep up with hiring the right people. I also served at a time when we were laying off staff and cutting budgets.

For many years, my relationship with my Senior Pastor was incredibly healthy. We led together, vacationed together, and hung out together. I also served for a few years when my relationship with my Senior Pastor was really difficult. We weren’t seeing eye-to-eye, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t fix it.

There may be no more important of a relationship in the local church than that between a senior pastor and an executive pastor. If this relationship is humming, the church can thrive. If it’s not—then every aspect of the ministry and staff will feel the disconnect. A close ministry friend once explained it to me this way: Just like kids will sense if something isn’t right between mom and dad, every person on the team knows when something isn’t right between you and our senior pastor.

(Click here to read more about the Executive Pastor Coaching Network that I'll be leading this spring and the Lead Pastor Coaching Network led by my colleague, David Whiting.)

He was right. Over my tenure, I learned some things about how best to serve my senior pastor—both from my successes and my failures. I have also learned a great deal over the past two years as I travel from church to church working with senior and executive pastor teams.

If you are a senior or lead pastor, I believe there are 5 things your executive pastor needs from you:

1.     Clarity. This is critical. If the executive pastor doesn’t know what you want, he can’t serve you very well. If you bring in ten ideas today, and a different ten ideas tomorrow, without any clarity on what is most important—you are going to frustrate your executive pastor.  It’s okay to function in blue-sky thinking space, but occasionally you must land the plane if you don’t want to cycle through executive pastor’s every couple of years.

2.     Authority. If you hired an executive pastor, but have difficulty letting them make decisions—perhaps you really should have hired an administrative assistant. An executive pastor who is wired like a high-functioning leader should be leading the team and making decisions. If they feel like they can’t make decisions without running it by you, they will get frustrated.

3.     Loyalty. Once your executive pastor has been in place for a while and is leading the team on your behalf, he or she needs your support. That means there will be times when you’ll need to be visibly loyal to a decision that they made that you wouldn’t have made. Tell your executive pastor behind closed doors. In public, they must have your support.

4.     Access. They need to have semi-regular time with you in order to hear your heart, know what’s going on in your head (it’s not as obvious as you think), and be able to lead on your behalf. Consider a weekly lunch meeting that is two-parts relational and one-part agenda-driven.

5.     Spiritual Discernment. Your executive pastor needs you to be tuned in to where God is leading the church and the staff. They need you to have a strong marriage and be leading your family well. Your walk with God provides a rudder for the church and the leadership team. Without it, insecurity is introduced into the system and it makes it very difficult to move forward. This is expected from all leaders, but is modeled at the highest levels.

Next week I’ll focus on the 5 Things Every Senior Pastor Needs from the Executive Pastor.

Credit: Doug Slaybaugh was an executive pastor at Saddleback Church for many years. Now he spends his time with the Paterson Center helping leaders focus on what is important in their churches and in their personal lives. We recently spent some time together talking about the critical nature of the relationship between the senior pastor and executive pastor. It is from that conversation that I wrote this article.